Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Future Hiding in Plain Sight

Carl Jung used to argue that meaningful coincidences—in his jargon, synchronicity—were as important as cause and effect in shaping the details of human life. Whether that’s true in the broadest sense, I’ll certainly vouch for the fact that they’re a constant presence in The Archdruid Report. Time and again, just as I sit down to write a post on some theme, somebody sends me a bit of data that casts unexpected light on that very theme.

Last week was a case in point. Regular readers will recall that the theme of last week’s post was the way that pop-culture depictions of deep time implicitly erase the future by presenting accounts of Earth’s long history that begin billions of years ago and end right now. I was brooding over that theme a little more than a week ago, chasing down details of the prehistoric past and the posthistoric future, when one of my readers forwarded me a copy of the latest Joint Operating Environment report by the Pentagon—JOE-35, to use the standard jargon—which attempts to predict the shape of the international environment in which US military operations will take place in 2035, and mostly succeeds in providing a world-class example of the same blindness to the future I discussed in my post.

The report can be downloaded in PDF form here and is worth reading in full. It covers quite a bit of ground, and a thorough response to it would be more the size of a short book than a weekly blog post. The point I want to discuss this week is its identification of six primary “contexts for conflict” that will shape the military environment of the 2030s:

“1. Violent Ideological Competition. Irreconcilable ideas communicated and promoted by identity networks through violence.” That is, states and non-state actors alike will pursue their goals by spreading ideologies hostile to US interests and encouraging violent acts to promote those ideologies.

“2. Threatened U.S. Territory and Sovereignty. Encroachment, erosion, or disregard of U.S. sovereignty and the freedom of its citizens from coercion.” That is, states and non-state actors will attempt to carry out violent acts against US citizens and territory.

“3. Antagonistic Geopolitical Balancing. Increasingly ambitious adversaries maximizing their own influence while actively limiting U.S. influence.” That is, rival powers will pursue their own interests in conflict with those of the United States.
“4. Disrupted Global Commons. Denial or compulsion in spaces and places available to all but owned by none.” That is, the US will no longer be able to count on unimpeded access to the oceans, the air, space, and the electromagnetic spectrum in the pursuit of its interests.

“5. A Contest for Cyberspace. A struggle to define and credibly protect sovereignty in cyberspace.” That is, US cyberwarfare measures will increasingly face effective defenses and US cyberspace assets will increasingly face effective hostile incursions.

“6. Shattered and Reordered Regions. States unable to cope with internal political fractures, environmental stressors, or deliberate external interference.” That is, states will continue to be overwhelmed by the increasingly harsh pressures on national survival in today’s world, and the failed states and stateless zones that will spawn insurgencies and non-state actors hostile to the US.

Apparently nobody at the Pentagon noticed one distinctly odd thing about this outline of the future context of American military operations: it’s not an outline of the future at all. It’s an outline of the present. Every one of these trends is a major factor shaping political and military action around the world right now. JOE-35 therefore assumes, first, that each of these trends will remain locked in place without significant change for the next twenty years, and second, that no new trends of comparable importance will emerge to reshape the strategic landscape between now and 2035. History suggests that both of these are very, very risky assumptions for a great power to make.

It so happens that I have a fair number of readers who serve in the US armed forces just now, and a somewhat larger number who serve in the armed forces of other countries more or less allied with the United States. (I may have readers serving with the armed forces of Russia or China as well, but they haven’t announced themselves—and I suspect, for what it’s worth, that they’re already well acquainted with the points I intend to make.) With those readers in mind, I’d like to suggest a revision to JOE-35, which will take into account the fact that history can’t be expected to stop in its tracks for the next twenty years, just because we want it to. Once that’s included in the analysis, at least five contexts of conflict not mentioned by JOE-35 stand out from the background:

1. A crisis of legitimacy in the United States. Half a century ago, most Americans assumed as a matter of course that the United States had the world’s best, fairest, and most democratic system of government; only a small minority questioned the basic legitimacy of the institutions of government or believed they would be better off under a different system. Since the late 1970s, however, federal policies that subsidized automation and the offshoring of industrial jobs, and tacitly permitted mass illegal immigration to force down wages, have plunged the once-proud American working class into impoverishment and immiseration. While the wealthiest 20% or so of Americans have prospered since then, the other 80% of the population has experienced ongoing declines in standards of living.

The political impact of these policies has been amplified by a culture of contempt toward working class Americans on the part of the affluent minority, and an insistence that any attempt to discuss economic and social impacts of automation, offshoring of jobs, and mass illegal immigration must be dismissed out of hand as mere Luddism, racism, and xenophobia. As a direct consequence, a great many working class Americans—in 1965, by and large, the sector of the public most loyal to American institutions—have lost faith in the US system of government. This shift in values has massive military as well as political implications, since working class Americans are much more likely than others to own guns, to have served in the military, and to see political violence as a potential option.

Thus a domestic insurgency in the United States is a real possibility at this point. Since, as already noted, working class Americans are disproportionately likely to serve in the military, planning for a domestic insurgency in the United States will have to face the possibility that such an insurgency will include veterans familiar with current counterinsurgency doctrine. It will also have to cope with the risk that National Guard and regular armed forces personnel sent to suppress such an insurgency will go over to the insurgent side, transforming the insurgency into a civil war.

As some wag has pointed out, the US military is very good at fighting insurgencies but not so good at defeating them, and the fate of Eastern Bloc nations after the fall of the Soviet Union shows just how fast a government can unravel once its military personnel turn against it. Furthermore, since the crisis of legitimacy is driven by policies backed by a bipartisan consensus, military planners can only deal with the symptoms of a challenge whose causes are beyond their control.

2. The marginalization of the United States in the global arena. Twenty years ago the United States was the world’s sole superpower, having triumphed over the Soviet Union, established a rapprochement with China, and marginalized such hostile Islamic powers as Iran. Those advantages did not survive two decades of overbearing and unreliable US policy, which not only failed to cement the gains of previous decades but succeeded in driving Russia and China, despite their divergent interests and long history of conflict, into an alliance against the United States. Future scholars will likely consider this to be the worst foreign policy misstep in our nation’s history.

Iran’s alignment with the Sino-Russian alliance and, more recently, overtures from the Philippines and Egypt, track the continuation of this trend, as do the establishment of Chinese naval bases across the Indian Ocean from Myanmar to the Horn of Africa, and most recently, Russian moves to reestablish overseas bases in Syria, Egypt, Vietnam, and Cuba. Russia and China are able to approach foreign alliances on the basis of a rational calculus of mutual interest, rather than the dogmatic insistence on national exceptionalism that guides so much of US foreign policy today. This allows them to offer other nations, including putative US allies, better deals than the US is willing to concede.

As a direct result, barring a radical change in its foreign policy, the United States in 2035 will be marginalized by a new global order centered on Beijing and Moscow, denied access to markets and resources by trade agreements hostile to its interests, and will have to struggle to maintain influence even over its “near abroad.” It is unwise to assume, as some current strategists do, that China’s current economic problems will slow that process. Some European leaders in the 1930s, Adolf Hitler among them, assumed that the comparable boom-bust cycle the United States experienced in the 1920s and 1930s meant that the US would be a negligible factor in the European balance of power in the 1940s. I think we all know how that turned out.

Here again, barring a drastic change in US foreign policy, military planners will be forced to deal with the consequences of unwelcome shifts without being able to affect the causes of those shifts. Careful planning can, however, redirect resources away from global commitments that will not survive the process of marginalization, and toward securing the “near abroad” of the United States and withdrawing assets to the continental US to keep them from being compromised by former allies.

3. The rise of “monkeywrenching” warfare. The United States has the most technologically complex military in the history of war. While this is normally considered an advantage, it brings with it no shortage of liabilities. The most important of these is the vulnerability of complex technological systems to “monkeywrenching”—that is, strategies and tactics targeting technological weak points in order to degrade the capacities of a technologically superior force.  The more complex a technology is, as a rule, the wider the range of monkeywrenching attacks that can interfere with it; the more integrated a technology is with other technologies, the more drastic the potential impacts of such attacks. The complexity and integration of US military technology make it a monkeywrencher’s dream target, and current plans for increased complexity and integration will only heighten the risks.

The risks created by the emergence of monkeywrenching warfare are heightened by an attitude that has deep roots in the culture of US military procurement:  the unquestioned assumption that innovation is always improvement. This assumption has played a central role in producing weapons systems such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which is so heavily burdened with assorted innovations that it has a much shorter effective range, a much smaller payload, and much higher maintenance costs than competing Russian and Chinese fighters. In effect, the designers of the F-35 were so busy making it innovative that they forgot to make it work. The same thing can be said about many other highly innovative but dubiously effective US military technologies.

Problems caused by excessive innovation can to some extent be anticipated and countered by US military planners. What makes monkeywrenching attacks by hostile states and non-state actors so serious a threat is that it may not be possible to predict them in advance. While US intelligence assets should certainly make every effort to identify monkeywrenching technologies and tactics before they are used, US forces must be aware that at any moment, critical technologies may be put out of operation or turned to the enemy’s advantage without warning. Rigorous training in responding to technological failure, and redundant systems that can operate independently of existing networks, may provide some protection against monkeywrenching, but the risk remains grave.

4. The genesis of warband culture in failed states. While JOE-35 rightly identifies the collapse of weak states into failed-state conditions as a significant military threat, a lack of attention to the lessons of history leads its authors to neglect the most serious risk posed by the collapse of states in a time of general economic retrenchment and cultural crisis. That risk is the emergence of warband culture—a set of cultural norms that dominate the terminal periods of most recorded civilizations and the dark ages that follow them, and play a central role in the historical transformation to dark age conditions.

Historians use the term “warband” to describe a force of young men whose only trade is violence, gathered around a charismatic leader and supporting itself by pillage. While warbands tend to come into being whenever public order collapses or has not yet been imposed, the rise of a self-sustaining warband culture requires a prolonged period of disorder in which governments either do not exist or cannot establish their legitimacy in the eyes of the governed, and warbands become accepted as the de facto governments of territories of various size. Once this happens, the warbands inevitably begin to move outward; the ethos and the economics of the warband alike require access to plunder, and this can best be obtained by invading regions not yet reduced to failed-state conditions, thus spreading the state of affairs that fosters warband culture in the first place.

Most civilizations have had to contend with warbands in their last years, and the record of attempts to quell them by military force is not good. At best, a given massing of warbands can be defeated and driven back into whatever stateless area provides them with their home base; a decade or two later, they can be counted on to return in force. Systematic attempts to depopulate their home base simply drive them into other areas, causing the collapse of public order there. Once warband culture establishes itself solidly on the fringes of a civilization, history suggests, the entire civilized area will eventually be reduced to failed-state conditions by warband incursions, leading to a dark age. Nothing guarantees that the modern industrial world is immune from this same process.

The spread of failed states around the periphery of the industrial world is thus an existential threat not only to the United States but to the entire project of modern civilization. What makes this a critical issue is that US foreign policy and military actions have repeatedly created failed states in which warband culture can flourish:  Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Ukraine are only the most visible examples. Elements of US policy toward Mexico—for example, the “Fast and Furious” gunrunning scheme—show worrisome movement in the same direction. Unless these policies are reversed, the world of 2035 may face conditions like those that have ended civilization more than once in the past.

5. The end of the Holocene environmental optimum. All things considered, the period since the final melting of the great ice sheets some six millennia ago has been extremely propitious for the project of human civilization. Compared to previous epochs, the global climate has been relatively stable, and sea levels have changed only slowly. Furthermore, the globe six thousand years ago was stocked with an impressive array of natural resources, and the capacity of its natural systems to absorb sudden shocks had not been challenged on a global level for some sixty-five million years.

None of those conditions remains the case today. Ongoing dumping of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is rapidly destabilizing the global climate, and triggering ice sheet melting in Greenland and Antarctica that promises to send sea levels up sharply in the decades and centuries ahead. Many other modes of pollution are disrupting natural systems in a galaxy of ways, triggering dramatic environmental changes. Meanwhile breakneck extraction is rapidly depleting the accessible stocks of hundreds of different nonrenewable resources, each of them essential to some aspect of contemporary industrial society, and the capacity of natural systems to cope with the cascading burdens placed upon them by human action has already reached the breaking point in many areas.

The end of the Holocene environmental optimum—the era of relative ecological stability in which human civilization has flourished—is likely to be a prolonged process. By 2035, however, current estimates suggest that the initial round of impacts will be well under way. Shifting climate belts causing agricultural failure, rising sea levels imposing drastic economic burdens on coastal communities and the nations to which they belong, rising real costs for resource extraction driving price spikes and demand destruction, and increasingly intractable conflicts pitting states, non-state actors, and refugee populations against one another for remaining supplies of fuel, raw materials, topsoil, food, and water.

US military planners will need to take increasingly hostile environmental conditions into account. They will also need to prepare for mass movements of refugees out of areas of flooding, famine, and other forms of environmental disruption, on a scale exceeding current refugee flows by orders of magnitude. Finally, since the economic impact of these shifts on the United States will affect the nation’s ability to provide necessary resources for its military, plans for coping with cascading environmental crises will have to take into account the likelihood that the resources needed to do so may be in short supply.

Those are the five contexts for conflict I foresee. What makes them even more challenging than they would otherwise be, of course, is that none of them occur in a vacuum, and each potentially feeds into the others. Thus, for example, it would be in the national interest of Russia and/or China to help fund and supply a domestic insurgency in the United States (contexts 1 and 2); emergent warbands may well be able to equip themselves with the necessary gear to engage in monkeywrenching attacks against US forces sent to contain them (contexts 4 and 3); disruptions driven by environmental change will likely help foster the process of warband formation (contexts 5 and 4), and so on.

That’s the future hiding in plain sight: the implications of US policies in the present and recent past, taken to their logical conclusions. The fact that current Pentagon assessments of the future remain so tightly fixed on the phenomena of the present, with no sense of where those phenomena lead, gives me little hope that any of these bitter outcomes will be avoided.

There will be no regularly scheduled Archdruid Report next week. Blogger's latest security upgrade has made it impossible for me to access this blog while I'm out of town, and I'll be on the road (and my backup moderator unavailable) for a good part of what would be next week's comment cycle. I've begun the process of looking for a new platform for my blogs, and I'd encourage any of my readers who rely on Blogger or any other Google product to look for alternatives before you, too, get hit by an "upgrade" that makes it more trouble to use than it's worth.


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Marcu said...

The Green Wizard's Association of Melbourne is turning one! This October meeting will be our one year anniversary. I would like to thank all of our regular members who make the time to attend as well as all the visitors who have attended. I would also like to express my gratitude to John Michael Greer for sharing all his insights and letting us advertise our meetings here on his blog.

The next meeting will be held on the last Saturday of October. All interested parties are invited to attend. For those people who are unsure about the nature of our meetings, imagine a long descent support group with some intentional living discussion mixed in.

If you are interested to join us, meet us on Saturday the 29th of October 2016 at 13:00. The venue is, Vapiano, 347 Flinders Lane, Melbourne Victoria, Australia.

Send queries and comments to limitstogrowth1972[at]

Just look for the green wizard's hat.

P.S. I have created a webpage where I will post the details of the next meeting and any further details for those who don't frequent the comments here. The webpage can be found at

W. B. Jorgenson said...

To all in Ottawa/Gatineau, the next meeting of our local green wizard group is 6:00 pm on November 3 at King Shawarma, 205 Bank Street.

Talon Talonicus said...

It's funny but, when I read the list of JOE "predictions", it seemed more like a wish list.

drhooves said...

Another fine post this week, the topic of which is central to the realm in which America is to suffer quite a lot in the next 20 years - the loss of military dominance. Most every other nation on Earth, including many "allies", will be happy to join in on the beat-down. As a former climatologist in the USAF, this is an unpleasant outcome, but reading through the JOE report indicates the Pentagon (and the Federal government) are clueless about the real root causes at hand. The report is all flash and no substance, and not really even that much flash, with paragraphs of 25 cent words stating essentially nothing.

As for climate change, it's certainly going to be a factor in the Long Descent, but compared to resource depletion, pollution, and political/economic upheaval and war, my guess is that it'll be on the back burner. Without a doubt, the problem of dealing with refugees will be front and center in the next two decades.

Shane W said...

Some of my wage class coworkers like to speculate about how the US will go down, but almost none of them have faith that the US will stay together, except for the conspiracy theory, New World Order types.

Graeme Bushell said...

Thanks JMG. One wonders whether they document is for public consumption, and the military is well aware of these issues.
On the other hand, as they say, never attribute conspiracy where stupidity will suffice.
I would have listed fossil fuel depletion in the as well, but I understand you wanted to limit it to 5.
Sea level rise is a huge issue. It won't take too much to render virtually all port infrastructure unusable. Goodbye international trade, goodbye navy (given the coincident resource limits).


NomadicBeer said...

Here's hoping that someone high in the US military reads this.
I don't think there's much they can do to stop these things from happening, but at least they can prepare to minimize the damage.
By 2035 US might be a military dictatorship. This is something of a best case scenario, the worst being a failed state plunged in civil war.

donalfagan said...

I can relate to the Blogger probs. My office upgraded our Outlook and suddenly no one could dump emailed product submittals into that software. I was trying to rent a car online from Enterprise for three days. I called and they told me their new website doesn't work right, so to use Enterprise classic.

Finally saw two Clinton lawn signs - in a well-to-do area around here.

There's a funny Western PA video here, called, "Yer Stupid."

GHung said...

"More of the same" has always been a fairly safe assumption when one is forced to make predictions. Then, again, a Wise Man here said it's "never different this time", eh?

As for the warnings about cyber-mischief being now, out here in the trenches the current scuttlebutt is largely about hacked emails and the Clinton campaign's 'collusion' with the media; rigging the election and all that. As Gomer Pile was want to say; "Surprise! Surprise!"
For some reason I dusted off my copy of Manufacturing Consent, almost thirty years old, and I'm certain that book was no more prophetic than Joe-35 pretends to be. It was merely exposing us in real-time. Only the technology has changed.

ganv said...

Provocative as always. But I don't see a serious path for Moscow to become a center of global power in this century. Greater than Europe? Europe has pioneered many of the environmental and social programs that are most promising for the next century, and it seems to me unlikely that they will be overtaken by Russia. Beijing already is a global power and its influence will be much greater than many expect. Populations of 1.3 billion (China) vs 0.14 billion (Russia) doesn't make an equal partnership. And I think you underestimate the USA. I would give us a better chance than any other current power except maybe China to maintain political cohesion and international influence through the coming century. There are deep problems, but there is also a strong multi-ethnic culture that has a better chance of maintaining cohesion through the coming crisis than most other societies.

Gabriela Augusto said...

Dear JMG,
could it be the case of "magical thinking" in the Pentagon? To hope that history will be put on hold until they figure how to deal with presente challenges is quite comparable to "the universe conspiring to help us achieving our goals". Maybe The pentagon is consulting with Rhonda Byrne...
I will miss your post next week

Shane W said...

Maybe you could just take the Retrotopian leap and go full on offline, with just a print edition? Though I guess people are still too digitally addicted for you to have wide dissemination if you did that.

Trevor Davis said...

Wordpress and Pelican are two popular open-source blogging platforms. You can either self-host or many websites will host your blog for you. Wordpress requires a "dynamic" webhost (i.e. PHP / SQL) whereas Pelican actually "compiles" your blog into static html on your computer and then you just need to upload it to any "static" web host. I've used Dreamhost for Wordpress hosting before for a work project, they seem popular. I prefer Pelican (easier/cheaper to host, easier to backup, much harder for an upgrade to cause problems, can deployed to any static webhost) but if you aren't comfortable with the command-line Wordpress probably makes a better choice since you can do all the writing and configuration through a web page GUI. People have ported their blog from Blogger to either of these before.

dfr2010 said...

A slightly different take on the JOE-35 (from an enlisted-level Army vet) is that it may be intended to be a criticism of current foreign policy ... but officers don't dare make such criticism publicly or directly. But, if it's put into a report presented as a preview of future potential threats, then the implied suggestion is to make changes to current policy to prevent such future issues. Officers need to be able to navigate workplace politics, and the top brass need to be able to work with civilian politicians if they want to succeed.

johnhavey said...

You might want to add thermodynamic oil collapse, which is briefly outlined at the end of this post:

It is discussed by the same author in the middle of a podcast with Jim Kunstler here:

And outlined more fully by the originators here:

blue sun said...

Thank for for a consistently brilliant analysis week after week. It's amazing what you do.

I don't think I can explain it, but I think I've decided (reluctantly, reluctantly) to vote for Trump. Well, maybe I can explain it. Basically for a single reason.

From what I can gather, Hillary will likely start a war (ahem, "conflict") with Russia. From what I can piece together, Trump is most likely to pull us back from senseless wars (assuming he's not assassinated and Pence takes over, a possibility for sure). I'm usually the type to vote third party out of principle, but in this case I think this single issue is important enough to override all the completely unconstitutional and immoral stances that I expect Trump to take in other matters.

I'm very seriously considering Darrell Castle or Jill Stein but I honestly think a vote for Trump is the most likely to prevent this country from going to war with Russia. (In fact, just allowing the US to avoid Clinton may relieve some of the "pressure" you allude to that would build up in the wage class over the next 4 years under a Clinton presidency, a pressure that in the long run could make domestic conflict aggravated enough to ultimately become a civil war.)

So, I've reached the conclusion that a vote for Trump is a vote in the interest of greater peace. Do you think that's a reasonable evaluation of the candidates' foreign policy? Do you think it's defensible?

I know you're probably reluctant to give advice on who to vote for in the national election, but your post this week has made this issue seem even more pressing.

cynndara said...

Well, the JOE list may not be imaginative, but that doesn't make it wrong. None of their predicted problems is going to go away. For instance, the use of ideology to win and shore up support from potential soldiers and allies is at least as old as ancient Persia, so why would ideological conflict NOT be an issue in 2030? Threats to US sovereignty and territory go along with recognition that the US is an empire on its downward curve; the admission that we will be actively required to defend not merely our imperial interests but our home ground is a mark of just how much has changed in the last 20 years. Antagonistic Global Rebalancing, disrupted commons, and "shattered and reordered regions" all go hand in hand with the end of the Pax Americana. When empires die, everything that seemed settled previously is once more up for grabs. You don't seriously think that the New World Order is going to emerge victorious and completely impose its domination in less than 20 years, do you? I suppose China COULD succeed in a rapid reordering following either a natural disaster or civil war in America. And both are possible. But neither is so certain that the Pentagon doesn't need to be thinking about the Long Descent. And no doubt cyberwar will continue ad infinitum, at least until enough people get tired enough of "progress" and its costs to invest in pre-internet operations. Could happen by 2035, or might not. All depends on how much various players lose to theft, intelligence hacks, and lost productivity, and whether it continues as a constant niggling irritation or something really big goes down spectacularly.

Of course, your list is just as valid and a bit more interesting because less obvious. I'm especially interested in the "loss of legitimacy" issue. Both The Guardian and the Post had articles today addressing the possibility of civil unrest following the elections due to loss of legitimacy. It made me wonder if the Powers That Be have decided to go ahead with Article V given that the same idea was showing up in mainstream outlets on both sides of the Atlantic on the same day. Now, if the Masters of the Universe are opting for a Constitutional Convention, that can only mean that they think they can control it. But can they? And if they do, would the results be accepted as legitimate, or would the armed working class decide to give up on the Union entirely?

As always, though, a thought-provoking read. I will miss ADR next week.

David, by the lake said...


First, just to get my reaction to your end-of-post announcement off my chest: "Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!"

Ok. Purged now. I can go on.

The bright, shiny object in your list is, of course, item #1. (Well, they are all bright and shiny, but it is the brightest and shiniest.). My wondering-out-loud question is, "would the crisis of legitimacy be restricted to the federral governmental structure or would there be bleed-over to infect perceptions of state-level institutions as well?" My initial response to myself is that it would be circumstance-dependent, but the fact that there 50 distinct state governments versus one common federal government would suggest that the odds of at least some state systems retaining legitimacy in the eyes of their citizenry would be reasonably good. (I've always liked the term the Chinese have for this concept -- the Mandate of Heaven. It was the Duke of Chu, if I recall correctly, who is supposed to have originated it.)

The recent shifts in the Philippines exemplify your point re our marginalization. I wonder how many people are completely missing what is occurring right in front of them and will simply wake up one day, befuddled, in a world where our influence is only a fraction of what it was. I would think that a once-reliable satellite looking at joint exercises with China would be discussed more prominently, particularly in an election season. We seem so completely clueless...

Thank you, again, for your work here. We need to spend time thinking on these possibiities and considering how we might respond, even only at the community level. Even if the options aren't great, some forethought is better than no plan at all.

latheChuck said...

Without addressing our current political unpleasantness, I'd like to express the observation that our current environment seems to consist of two camps, each of which is willing to dismiss the evils discovered in its own camp, while assuming the worst about the hints of evil within the other. And I think this is a natural result of so many, many betrayals of trust by the structures of our (global) society.

Do you trust your hospital? "ECDC has published 'Estimated burden of healthcare-associated infections higher than that of infectious diseases such as influenza, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis together'." (from

Your bank? "California launches criminal probe into Wells Fargo account scandal"

Your sport? "The NFL’s Concussion Problem Still Has Not Gone Away" (not to mention doping scandals in almost every competitive sport).

Your church? "One in 50 priests is a paedophile: Pope Francis says child abuse is 'leprosy' infecting the Catholic Church. Pope Francis quoted as saying figure included bishops and cardinals"

Your military? "Three US Navy flag officers have become the highest-ranking officials thus far punished in the Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA) bribery and corruption scandal, each receiving a letter of censure from Navy Secretary Ray Mabus."

Where can you look, and not find corruption? I suspect that it becomes easier to tolerate "a few bad apples" among your friends when it seems like everyone else is cheating. And, conversely, it's also easier to assume the worst when the smell of scandal wafts out of the camp of your enemies. If you know that you're tolerating corruption in your own camp, it's even easier to charge that it's happening on the other side. "Defense through offense"; sometimes that works, for a while.

And then, there's this: (The story claims that the incident was incited by a prisoner with prior experience with cannibalism, by the way, not that 'ordinary' prisoners were forced into it by utter starvation.)

W. B. Jorgenson said...

Does anyone else feel like it was written more about the past twenty years than the future?

latheChuck said...

Give the military planners some credit... they're not expecting the current raft of problems to have dissipated in twenty years! It's not as if they think victory and peace are at hand, if we just push a little harder.

Allan Stromfeldt Christensen said...

I suppose you've probably already gotten plenty of advice and done your research about various blogging platforms, but I'll mention this just in case, and for those who may be interested.

If not blogger/blogspot, the common alternative seems to be Wordpress. Next to that, probably Medium. There's a few other lesser known ones such as Joomla and Drupal, none of which I've used myself (I rather ridiculously hand-coded my entire blog from scratch, but which then gives me a ridiculous amount of freedom -- albeit rather tedious freedom). If I hadn't of hand-coded my blog and were to start again, I'd probably go with Ghost. It's an open-source platform strictly for blogging, and seems quite nice-looking and easy to use. Their prices can be a bit dear though, but being open source there's the option to self-host a Ghost install yourself. For the novice (like me), that would require getting your own domain (I use Hover) as well as an account with a web hosting service (I use A Small Orange) that has cPanel installed on its system, which then has Ghostery available as an easy one-click install via Softaculous. You can read about that here. You would need a bit of computer savviness to host it yourself, but not too much. But you would of course be on your own (so to speak) when it came to dealing with any trouble shooting issues.

Steve D said...

Kind of funny - you would think the MIC would be actively seeking (or manufacturing) new kinds of threats so as to market new, "innovative" weapons systems to counter them, even if said threats were purely fictional and/or utterly unlikely, rather than just cranking out more of the same junk to counter more of the same threats.
Is this another sign that the "creative minority" is all out of creativity? Or are they honestly that out of touch with reality? (Or both...)
Along a slightly different path, in light of the threats you outlined, if you could play Santa Claus for the US Military, with what would you gift them this Yuletide (whether hardware or doctrines/ideas or anything else you could think up) in order to help avert disaster in the coming years?
Cheers and thanks for another intriguing post!

Fred said...

One of your most powerful posts. It pulls together many of the points you've made over years into an clear actionable list. Hope the DOD has a check in the mail to you!

May I suggest Wordpress for a new platform? More robust, community sourced coding and upgrades, and you could add in Patreon support links. The admin of the comments is easier too. I heard 80% of the websites that exist use Wordpress so it will be around awhile.

one gun said...

Interesting post.

From your list, I wonder if #1 will cause #4 to be U.S. warbands within the U.S. Not from outside.

Changing demographics to Latino might mix with an ever worsening economy to make the U.S. economy look more like Latin America's.

It's said the national pass time in Mexico is finding clever ways not pay their taxes. As, "Freedom" in the U.S. is stifled by the government rooting out tax cheats I reminded that most shooting in revolutions are started by the government putting the citizens in a lose/lose situation. Those situations usually end in the point of a gun. That's usually when the revolutionary first shoots.

It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye.

Nastarana said...

The JOE list seemed to me to be a list of here are the destabilizations we have to provoke in order to maintain our hegemony.

Tower 440 said...

Greetings to the assembled Wizardren!
We in Northeast Ohio are following Melbourne’s example by holding well-advertised meetings.
The monthly joint meeting of the Green Wizards’ Benevolent and Protective Association, Tower Number 440, and Ruinmen’s Guild, Local 440 will be held at 11:30 AM on Wednesday, December 21 2016. Our location is Ruko’s Family Restaurant, 9385 Mentor Avenue, Mentor, Ohio 44060, (440) 974-1914. Shining the Green Light! Public Welcome! Tables for Failed Scholars. Look for the table topper with the Green Wizard Hat. Contact us at [email protected]
Many thanks to John for the posting space on his blog.

Patricia Mathews said...

On the crisis of legitimacy - the latest issue of The Atlantic had an article length review of the life and work of Jane Jacobs, including her 2004 book Dark Age Ahead. Her thesis was that gentrification, megaprojects, and massive developments had so ghettoized the urban working classes that their environments were now as barren as the most remote and rundown village. I'm putting this badly ... I know a lot of residents of remote villages and urban barrios could give you as many counterexamples as there are people. Albuquerque isn't much for megaprojects, thank all the goddesses of civilized life. (Oddly enough, they do tend to be goddesses .... Athena, Inanna..)
But I also know what she means.

The article put it much more clearly. Here's the link.

And I misquote the world's new poet laureate, "It didn't take a weatherwoman to know which way the wind is now blowing."

Juandonjuan said...

I think that, like so many things in our current setup, the J O E projections are as much about justifying procurement/pork barreling as about any real, linearly extrapolated threats. That, and the institutional blindness that sets in when there have been no real challenges to the established wisdom that the possibility of failure is not truly recognized.
Arthur C Clarke's short story "Superiority" says it about as well as can be said.

out here in the real world, the disconnect between virtual and practical reality seems to be accelerating, but the residents of the virtual world don't get outside enough to notice.

Raymond R said...

Great post John. I suspect that there are a few intelligence analysts who would like to make the kind of assessment of the future that you have made here but to do so would, at the very least, marginalize them and possibly end their careers. Large organisations are often pretty harsh on those who don't toe the party line

I look forward to your return - enjoy your trip

HalFiore said...

I read the report instead of listening to the debate. I am certain the content will be far more relevant to our futures than whatever was said in Nevada tonight.

Dennis Mitchell said...

I guess we will always be fighting the last war. Just once we should try concentrating on the next peace.

John Michael Greer said...

Talon, funny!

Drhooves, my fifth context for conflict explicitly includes resource depletion and pollution as well as climate change, so that's already in there. As The Limits to Growth pointed out, it's precisely when resource depletion and environmental disruption turn into the two jaws of a contracting vise that we're really screwed.

Shane, fascinating. I remember the way that harcore anticommunists insisted, even after the fact, that the Soviet Union couldn't actually collapse -- what would they do without their favorite devil?

Graeme, resource depletion is in context #5, so it hasn't been ignored!

NomadicBeer, military dictatorship is one option; a constitutional convention that dissolves the Union and allows groups of states to found smaller, less conflicted nations is another; a failed state is yet another -- and of course there are more. The future's a complicated place.

Donalfagan, the secretary of my Royal Arch chapter had his computer put out of action by a cascade of Windows 10 updates, so I know it's not just me!

Ghung, the problem with "more of the same" is that it assumes that choices in the present have no effect on the shape of the future. Since it isn't different this time, similar causes have similar effects, landing us in a changed though equally familiar mess.

Ganv, Europe is falling apart as we watch; while the EU will hold together for a while yet, anti-EU sentiment is rising steadily and will have the same impact across Western Europe it's already had in Britain. Nor has any European country shown the least willingness to expand its military to deal with the dangers of a post-American world, while Russia is rapidly building the foundations for a return to superpower status and China, as you've noted, is already there. As for the US, this country is a hollowed-out shell, so close to national bankruptcy that it can't even afford to keep its roads paved, and riven with intractable political stresses that are likely to tear it apart sooner rather than later. That is to say, I disagree with your assesment!

Gabriela, that seems appallingly plausible...

Shane, I appreciate the fact that blogging gives me complete control over the text, ads, and comment moderation -- and it's also a heck of a lot less work than bringing out a print periodical. For the time being, it's the best medium for my work -- though of course that's just for the time being.

Trevor, thank you -- but a fair amount of what you've said is frankly over my head. Still, I see I have a bunch of research to do.

Dfr2010, maybe so, but JOE-35 doesn't make any proposals other than "we're going to keep doing the things we're doing right already." I'm not sure that fits your thesis very well.

Johnhavey, again, context #5 includes resource depletion and its knock-on effects. I wonder why so many people seem to have had trouble noticing that.

Blue Sun, you're right that I'm reluctant to give advice on who to vote for! I'd say, though, that if that's your considered analysis of the situation, go ye forth and cast that vote.

Tidlösa said...

Very good post! You wrote that the Pentagon´s five points are really describing the present, not the future. The chilling thing is that your five points *also* describe the present...

John Michael Greer said...

Cynndara, the point I think you're missing is that most of the things listed in JOE-35 will lead to different challenges in the future as they continue to shape events. For example, "antagonistic global rebalancing" leads to a situation where the rebalancing is over and done with, and the US is on the wrong side of it -- basically, my context #2. In the same way, "disrupted commons" leads to a state where the commons are no longer disrupted -- they're securely under the control of hostile powers, and the US is shut out of them or at least has its access sharply restricted. As for your question of timing -- yes, I think it's entirely possible that by 2035, US global hegemony could have gone the way of the Soviet Union, and the US as presently constituted may well have gone with it.

David, it really does depend on the state, but in my experience, most people feel a good deal less antagonistic toward their state governments than toward DC -- there's a sense, accurate or not, that citizens can still have some influence on state politics. That's not true of every state, of course.

LatheChuck, welcome to the standard phenomena of an imperial nation in freefall.

WB, it reads to me as though it's written about right now!

LatheChuck, fair enough -- that's true!

Allan, and computer savvy is exactly what I don't have and would like to avoid having to develop. I'd be willing to pay a modest monthly fee in order to have the blog site I want, and an actual human being to call who will fix things if the latest software update screws things up.

Steve, I don't think they want new threats, because everybody's so busy justifying throwing more money down the current set of high-tech ratholes meant to deal with the current set of threats! As for what I'd like to put under the Pentagon's tree this Christmas, a sudden cold realization that the US could really, truly lose a shooting war -- not just have to withdraw without a definite victory, but lose in the sense of having to accept terms dictated by the victors -- would do a lot of good. It's the army that thinks it's invincible that's most likely to dissolve completely when the battle turns against it.

Fred, thank you. I'll keep that in mind.

One Gun, yep. If the US descends into failed-state conditions it could turn into a major breeding ground for warband culture very, very quickly.

Nastarana, I'd rephrase that: "here are the destabilizations we think we have to provoke to maintain our hegemony, because we're not clever enough to realize that the consequences will destroy us."

Patricia, thanks for this! I read Dark Age Ahead when it first came out; it could have used more attention to the history of previous dark ages, but the thesis Jacobs argued has its merits.

Juandonjuan, I'm sorry to say you're probably right.

Raymond, no argument there, and thank you!

John Michael Greer said...

HalFiore, thank you for the vote of confidence! There are many times when I'm glad I don't watch TV; tonight is unquestionably one of them.

Dennis, as long as we concentrate on how to get to the next peace, instead of counting our doves before they hatch!

Tidlösa, well, yes -- but the point I'm trying to make is that things can become much, much, MUCH worse than they are right now...

patriciaormsby said...

The Kanto Green Wizards will hold its next picnic on Sunday, November 6, concurrently with the community picnic of the Asakawa Kompira shrine. For directions to the top of the small mountain near Takao Station in Hachioji, where the shrine is located, see my post on the Green Wizards blog. It is potluck, and likely to be lively, with guitars and singing and a short Shinto ceremony (requests for norito inclusions welcome--health improvement, disaster prevention, world peace sorts of ideas). I am thinking of adding a brief show-and-tell lecture series on Green Wizardry topics, such organic gardening and solar cooking.

I try to show up at 11:00 a.m., but things don't really get started until 12, so aim at that time. People start wandering away at about 3 again, and we wrap things up at about 4.

jbucks said...

No disputing what you've written here, but one thing that strikes me when people claim that China and Russia are on the rise is that they make the assumption that China and Russia will successfully surpass their own problems. For example, environmental impacts will have a arguably greater effect on China because it has so many more people than the US, China is trying to stop the outflow of capital by its citizens who are worried about the stability of its currency, and corruption seems to be widespread there. Maybe I'm wrong with this, by I understood that China is economically linked to the US because of how much money the US owes China, so aren't their fates pretty tightly linked? I guess what I'm trying to say - why won't the same forces you have written about here (particularly warbands and environmental impacts) also have a great impact on China and Russia?

Forgive my sloppily written comment, I'm trying to comment before rushing out to go to work...

Donald Hargraves said...

On the Lawn Sign front (and off topic): Lawn signs are finally exploding out here in NW Indiana. And, for the most part, they're for every race – Governor, Representative, local city seats, county seats – every race, that is, except the President. Outside of Highland, there's been only two signs for presidential candidates; and the one for Trump was hidden so that only the homeowner would see it as he pulled onto his driveway from the alleyway.

I also saw a bunch of signs for both Clinton and Trump on a road near St. Joseph, Michigan.

Evidently once someone decides to take a stand than others join in. Which implies to me that there's not a lot of people ready to take a stand for a candidate at this late date.

The Geographist said...

It's the warbands that scare me most when contemplating the future. I would much appreciate any literary recommendations you might have on the topic JMG. Thanks for the post!

Cherokee Organics said...


You know, it is funny, but I was talking with someone recently about how free things on the Internet are not quite as free as they seem!

As you are probably aware, I also use blogger but have also set up a webpage which I "own" (although lease is probably the correct term) for the the blog podcasts as well. The page can be found here: Podcast for Fernglade Farm Weekly Blog.

It has been quite a learning experience, but I would be happy to converse with you on this subject as a possible solution to your blogger troubles. I for one would miss your weekly blog!

I've gotta bounce as the sun is shining and outside work is calling me!



Agatha said...

Hi JMG! Love your blog and have been following for a long time. I'm an author, too. Started out on blogger for my own blog, then tried to go to Wordpress because everyone thinks it's great. Hated it (way too technical for me) and ended up on Weebly. Everything is pretty much drag and drop and very easy to work with. Customer service has been good. Just don't buy a domain name from them (if you want something other than a .weebly site), because they are too pricey. Hover has been a good company for domain names if you want that (also really easy to use, good customer service). Safe travels and good luck with your hunt for a new blogging platform!

Allan Stromfeldt Christensen said...

Well if you don't have the computer savviness I suppose you can count yourself lucky. Me, I was given a computer back in the early '80s at 5-years-old and was duly plopped onto a seat so that I could learn how to program (no joke). I didn't go very far with it, although I seem to have a knack to grasp it all if I really want to, which for the most part I don't.

That being said, and as I'm sure you know, if not Blogger/Blogspot then the overwhelming alternative that everybody else seems to use is Wordpress. I don't know much about it, but I do know that there's a free version as well as a paid version, the paid providing support I presume. Wordpress kind of puts me off for whatever reason, but that's just me.

The other one that I've seen used often is Medium, which Nafeez Ahmed uses (Insurgence Intelligence). Medium seems pretty straight forward to use, and I do believe it's free. I don't know what kind of service they provide though.

Last of all there's that Ghost that I mentioned. It seems that it can get pretty dear, so I checked to see if there were any reputable services that hosted Ghost at a more modest price (since anybody with a decent amount of knowledge -- not me -- could set up a company/website to host Ghost blogs since Ghost platform itself is open source). Although they were cheaper than Ghost itself, none of them really stood out. And on top of that, at least half of those Ghost hosting services that existed back in 2014/2015 had closed up shop. That being the case, I don't think I would trust the ones remaining with an important blog.

It seems to me then that it's either Wordpress, Medium, or pay Ghost themselves to host your blog (which I'd say could be trusted). I don't know what you meant by "modest", but Ghost's prices don't seem very modest to me. $80 for 350,000 hits a month, or $200 for 1,000,000 hits a month. The $200 does get you telephone service though (a rarity with these things, as I'm sure you know).

Hope that helps if you hadn't already decided on something.

patriciaormsby said...

I agree with Graeme that JOE-35 sounds like pablum for consumption by a bewildered public. I wonder if any of its authors actually expect it to be taken seriously. I recall writing such drivel for a bureaucracy. For my successor I left instructions on how to take the main points of the minutes of a meeting, strip them of anything that might be vaguely embarrassing to anyone imaginable, and then puff them up to an appropriate size with empty sentiments.

That Jade Helm was in response to threat #1 is a "conspiracy theory." (I no longer take anything seriously unless it has been declared a conspiracy theory, though, beware, those are heavily salted with red herrings.) #2 is being addressed with a credible threat to devastate Russia in a nuclear first strike, because, you know, those people are just so intractably "evil." As for #3-5, however, America bears an uncanny resemblance to a self-beached whale.

One question has repeatedly returned to me as I read various news sources these days. Is it a common feature of empires in the early stages of collapse for a small but noteworthy bunch of vicious women to accede to power, or is this just part of the unique dynamics in America this time around? The reason I'm thinking about this is the word "witch" is getting thrown around with uncommon vehemence, referring not just to Hillary, but also several other prominent American women. I've not heard such anger against Merkel, for example, though surely she had to be ruthless to get as far as she has gotten. There was similar anger against Thatcher, though I do not recall hearing "witch" used. It would take massive public fury, I think, to drive something like the Inquisition. I'm seeing people like Zhirinovsky (Russia's answer to Trump) start pointing to Hillary and saying, "See? Women should never have been let out of the kitchen!"
The one Empress in China's history had a terrible reputation for cruelty, which she cultivated intentionally, because that's what it took. She is said to have remarked that it just was not a position for a woman, precisely for that reason. Any sign of weakness, and womanhood is frankly assumed to be one, invites attack.
In ancient Japan, where woman had an amazing degree of equality to men, roles were nonetheless divided, with women in charge of spiritual affairs (i.e., values) and men in charge of political ones (i.e., interests). I'm wondering if there is a sort of socio-biological dynamics hardwired into our species that impedes women's advance until there is enough of a breakdown of order that a few very determined ones can claw their way up the ladder, but that their tactics are so appallingly cruel that, by association, women are once again sent back to the doghouse.
I think where society is more localized, women would be able to rise to their own capacities and play a more equal role within a commonly accepted framework. I love your positing a powerful female priesthood in Meriga, and hope women will not be dragged into the mud by all the mayhem that is just stretching its membranous vampire wings.

BTW, have a great trip!

Repent said...

In regards to synchronicities that you mentioned at the beginning of your post, I personally also experience relevant, too close to be coincidental, synchronicities essentially every day. At first I would write them off as 'good luck', or 'pure coincidence', but as these experiences became more common, these somehow morphed into the mind-boggling, impossible to have this many, timely, right on cue occurrences, exceeding any reasonable doubt, it was for me to conclude that something larger is at hand.

As an example, today, the very moment before I opened your essay; I had the question floating in my mind 'I wonder what the future is hiding in plain sight that I have missed?' Twenty seconds later I opened your post to the EXACT same title for your essay as was the question in my mind. It was uncanny.

Coincidences can be expressed as probabilities. 10 to the 28th power to one that I had the exact question in my mind before opening your essay today. With the next synchronicity the probability of coincidence will be 10 to the 29th power to one against and so forth. I am flabbergasted and beyond any reasonable doubt in my experiences that synchronicities are real; and this phenomena points to something that is far deeper occurring in my life that I can't even conceive of being possible?

I know you don't like mixing your two blogs, however did I correctly observe you have subtly done so here today with this observation at the beginning of your essay?

Sheila Grace said...

Have a safe trip, I just did, and it was the last goodbye and farewell to my trips via flying. The transition from magic to drudgery has followed its course as far as that’s concerned. Now a new transition from faux convenience (centralized dependency) to practical magic (decentralized self-accountability) is ahead of me and that is a trip worth taking.

#1: While traveling I noticed that to a person, not one voiced anything counter to this.
#2 & #3: much easier to learn about via alternate internet since 2001 - after shooting the TV.
#5: I threw in my background in Environmental Science and he added his Test Engineer career from the noncommercial side of Boeing, we brought back basic laws of Physics vs Economics/GDP/perpetual growth and there have been a lot of gut punch moments. “hey wait a minute???”. Your posts have been invaluable in pulling it all together.

#4: As someone who has ranged far and wide, my personal forays long ago took me out of the cushy suburbs into the shadowed urban streets of the largest east coast city where I learned from experience that very often; entirely different laws abide as opposed to what was expected in neighborhoods that had not had the luxury of breaking down.

Observing that first hand is not remotely the same thing as trying to imagine (what might happen), and that, I suppose, will take many coddled persons by surprise. In-group (organized) street codes are one facet as detailed in D.O.’s five stages of collapse, the other cannot be comprehended by logic – that is the one that emerges when youth, testosterone and the exhilaration of ‘we can take anything we want’ becomes the order of the day.

team10tim said...

Hey hey JMG,

I haven't had the time to chew this over yet, but my first nebulous thought is how different the JOE-35 is from the Bundeswehr report on peak oil:

DFR2010 may have a valid point, but the Bundeswehr report seems like a forecast and the JOE-35 seems like a hindcast. Again, I haven't spent the time to chew this over, but my first response, my instinct is saying that it's all over but the crying.


Barrabas said...

Yes i think your Druid nose has been sniffing the wind quite well with technology platforms of late . I cant prove it , but i keep getting the sense that what started out as being benign and helpful tech to make our lives easier and improve communication is being progressively replaced by the will to power of the underlying corporations to manage and mediate THEIR content which is being helpfully provided by you and i on a regular basis . One can sense their increasingly intrusive presence as they seek to profile and contain each and every participant .Quite the conundrum with a body of archival work such as the ADR which you may gradually lose control over depending on their whim. I hope it is all being removed from blogger and siloed somewhere safe .
Cheerio ...

Wendy Crim said...

I think you're right.
I share this phone with my daughter. I use it to look up recipes, find grocery coupons and read some blogs. This one, Automatic Earth and Club Orlov. I get the print version and I much prefer it. I plan to continue.

William Hays said...

Back in the 1970's I was a transportation planner for a metro planning organization in a large mid-west city. My task was to predict traffic volumes on roadways for the year 2000. This was the era of punch cards. We divided the region into nearly a thousand zones and ran huge matrices to predict vehicular flow.

Once I presented the study to stakeholders (local, state, and federal) the reaction was alarm. A particular expressway could not have 175,000 vehicles per day in 2000, I was assured. Instead, I was directed to "moderate" my predictions to be compatible with group-think.

Of course, the traffic did reach those levels around 2005; a lack of growth in the community in the 80's and 90's was the only impediment. The point is that the authors of the JOE35 report may well have anticipated other issues, but the final product must never disrupt the status-quo. Sleep well.

Wendy Crim said...

I've never voted for a republican. I'm from a long line of democrats. I voted for Jill Stein in the last election. I've reached the same exact conclusion you have. Trump may be a buffoon, but he's not a war monger. My parents would probably disown me but, I hope Trump wins. I don't want to be at war with Russia! At times though, I think it really doesn't matter who wins. The future is bad no matter who wins.

Grebulocities said...

It's occurred to me over the last four years of following world events that we're not really in something like the base case of The Limits to Growth. In the base case, resource shortages cause economic activity to peak and begin declining at some point in the ~2010-2040 time frame, with pollution serving only a secondary role. That's not quite true - the outlandish cornucopian claims about fracking were exaggerated, but none of the TOD or ADR predictions for fracking came through as imagined either: it's not exactly financially healthy, but not in any geological problems. Given abundant energy, resource extraction from ever more marginal supplies can keep going for quite a while longer as well.

Instead, we're in something like the high-resources case. Acute materials shortages are unlikely to happen globally for a few more decades, and the crises the US is facing and will face for the next 30 years come mostly from the types of unforced errors that characterize a declining imperial society with a disconnected and decadent elite, along with a slow but steady increase in distress, not measured by conventional statistics, that continue hurt ~80% of the society even while net growth, while anemic, is probably still positive by any reasonable metric.

In the high-resources case, we do get a reprieve until mid-century. The global problematique is still very real, but the steadily rising spiral of resource and environmental problems is still not enough to stop growth all by itself for a few more decades. Then both of the jaws - pollution and resource depletion - strike with a vengeance in the second half of the century, causing a much faster and deeper crash for our descendants to deal with on top of the already-shaky situation. But all the while, there is still a whole lot of potential for electronic doodads and gizmos to continue to "advance" in ever more addicting ways, so that the myth of progress may survive in privileged circle for many more decades. For the sorts of people who read this blog, that's a much harsher truth than that we'd undergo that fast crash now.

You did a great job capturing this reality with the veepads of the Atlantic Republic. "Progress" will still be alive and kicking (if in its later years) in our cultural mythology for the lifetimes of the people who read this message.

Scotlyn said...

Could Robin Hood's merry men be called a warband? If so, I shall be seeking and consuming tales of Maid Marian, and her like, with a view to throwing light on the options warband formation provides for women. I'd welcome any reading suggestions on this topic.

Maverick said...

You might consider typepad as an alternative to blogger.

As far as collapse goes, you might find it interesting to know that many rich Indians are reconsidering US and Europe as their preferred choice for immigration. Reasons being political instability, economic depression etc.

I spilled my coffee when one of my expat colleague said that he considers many Indian cities safer than Paris, Stockholm.

Ursachi Alexandru said...


Ukraine is not, at least yet, a "failed state" comparable to Afghanistan or Libya, and since I'm living in a country that actually borders Ukraine I can confirm that, otherwise we would be very busy trying to prevent a spillover. As of this moment, that is not the case.

Those conditions only apply to the Eastern parts of that country, as of this moment. And as an American who has repeatedly claimed to not be "lecturing the rest of the world," your claim that the destabilization of Ukraine is because of US involvement, and without even mentioning the fact that a certain neighboring country has been actively involved, with boots on the ground, in that conflict strikes me as a bit inconsistent to say the least.

Sorry if this message is a bit condescending. I live in a small country and I have very little empathy for large countries, their interests, "near abroads" and so on.

Peter Wilson said...

Hell, I suspect there's one hundred or more people who read this blog who would happily give you a website, and technical service on that website, for free, given the service you give to the world with your writing. I'd do it, a cloud computing platform, software as a service (and yes, with a backup), is cheap as chips, a few dollars, and you'd run Apache and Wordpress on top of that.

Esn said...

An excellent post, particularly about the danger of "warband culture". I really think that the enormous threat to civilization that it poses is mostly not recognized by the Western elites who allow it to spread.

However, I think that you are misunderstanding the lay of the land when you say that "it would be in the national interest of Russia and/or China to help fund and supply a domestic insurgency in the United States". It seems natural to think that way, because the US indeed has tried to start domestic insurgencies (sorry, "democratic protests") in both countries in recent years. But note that Russia and China have not, yet, reciprocated the favour.

Perhaps this is because, unlike the US, they have a historical memory of and relatively recent local experience with "warband culture", and see in it a danger of blow-back that makes it not worth the risk to use the tactic.

Russia had the near-societal collapse of the 1990s, in which the state nearly ceased functioning and "every little boy dreamed of being a gangster while every little girl dreamed of being a prostitute", as well as the Chechen & Caucasus conflicts. Vladimir Putin, in particular, frequently in his speeches frames his battles as battles against lawlessness. For example, see 3:30 here, about the Middle East:
And in particular, Putin's 2015 speech to the UN:

A few quotes:
"I would like to stress that refugees undoubtedly need our compassion and support. However, the only way to solve this problem for good is to restore statehood where it has been destroyed, to strengthen government institutions where they still exist, or are being re-established, to provide comprehensive military, economic and material assistance to countries in a difficult situation, and certainly to people who, despite all their ordeals, did not abandon their homes."

"We should all remember the lessons of the past. For example, we remember examples from our Soviet past, when the Soviet Union exported social experiments, pushing for changes in other countries for ideological reasons, and this often led to tragic consequences and caused degradation instead of progress."

China had its early 20th century chaos, and the ongoing Uyghur conflict. Russia's and China's actions beyond their borders in recent years (that I can think of) have been about creating stability, including by building massive infrastructure (like the Silk Road Economic Belt), strengthening state institutions (both at home and abroad), and trying to tamp out the chaotic wildfires of statelessness that Western military interventions and 3-letter agencies have helped cause (most visibly in Syria, but also in places like Montenegro).

My sense is that both Russia and China would, by far, prefer to have a stable and non-hostile (though competitive) United States than one that is in chaos, because they see the chaos itself as a great threat to themselves. I'm not at all sure that the US elites feel the same way, though - after all, the last time the rest of the world's manufacturing capabilities were destroyed, the US became a superpower and the world's top economy.

. said...

The Green Wizards of Ireland are happy to announce our inaugural meeting. In traditional Irish fashion we’ll be meeting in a pub - TP Smith's, 9-10 Jervis Street, Dublin 1. It’s just beside the red Luas line stop at Jervis. Meeting at 6pm on Saturday 19th of November. All are welcome to come along and we’ll hopefully have a green wizard’s hat on our table.


Greenie said...

> I'd be willing to pay a modest monthly fee in order to have the blog site I want, and an actual human being to call who will fix things if the latest software update screws things up.

I will help you do it. What is the best way to contact you?

Phil Harris said...

I much admire the thoroughness of your approach. Your analysis has been building over the years.

We are talking about a global ‘civilisation’ not an American one. Russia as always is European although it has its own distinct integrity. (You can’t ‘liberate’ the Russians from Russia, or vice-versa!) China has industrialised over two decades and joined the global interconnection. China contains many serious contradictions in its present state – for one it shares the planetary limits with the preeminent USA – and has the special problem of maintaining the rural livelihoods of nearly half a billion people during massive urbanisation. Within the dominant form of modern civilisation – the urban megalopolis – the adoption of modern urban habits, particularly of diet and transport, has significant global interaction – ‘footprints’ - and shapes the near future, including the ongoing galaxy of dire consequences.

Can I chime in on ‘Europe’? Germany needs Russia in some form of symbiosis. At the simplest level we can see Germany’s energy needs. These dominant States in Europe are both threatened by civil wars and by subsequent failed States within or on the European border. We can see the results where USA policy has opportunistically helped promote or exacerbate instability in the surrounds of the ex-USSR. What was it in the good old days (some earlier version of JOE perhaps?): “Keep Germany down and Russia out”? The Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East and North Africa are “near-abroad” for Europe (which must include Russia).

Dimly in Britain we have agreed a messy choice. We stay with the USA. It would be funny if it wasn’t serious. Our working class or its remains has nowhere obvious to go, real or imaginary. And we can’t send several millions of ‘others’ home wherever that might be. We can demonise and blame Putin however much we like, and we do, but we can’t ‘control our borders’ and at the same time try to promote air travel and trade expansion, anymore then we can change the weather or whatever tidal surge is in the offing. It looks like in the meanwhile we are going to try a massive expansion of nuclear electricity and a return to educational separation at age 11, with grammar schools for elite public education alongside the private schools of the ruling class. At 75 I can look forward to being 15 again!

Phil H
PS I can’t see it actually being in Sino/Russia interest to promote civil war in North America. A failed USA would be far more dangerous than a collapsing Soviet Union. It doesn't mean that 'somebody' isn't going to do the promoting of course.

Shane W said...

JMG, I'm wondering if the glaring gap of the JOE-35 prediction can be explained by the persistence of the civil religion of Americanism among the military? It's just unthinkable among military brass that the US could face an existential threat. You've often said that the US would face an existential crisis if it lost a war and had to accept an unfavorable peace. Americanism seems to still be well and strong among the military brass, and it does make sense that the upper levels of the military would self-select for devout believers. Our disastrous foreign adventures are saturated with the civil religion of Americanism.

Maria said...

Thank you, JMG. This post spoke to my former-military husband in a way he understands. We are finally having serious discussions about preparing for an 'interesting' old age.

Shane W said...

@blue sun,
I'm precisely where you are, for the reasons of foreign intervention, trade, and the economy/debt. My analogy is that it is better to slide, tumble, and stumble our way down the cliff w/Trump than to take the flying leap off it that Hillary most definitely entails.

. said...

If warbands are difficult to quell by military force, what can be done to protect yourself against them? Presumably protection money/bribery would be acceptable but that becomes a vicious circle. Plus in the case of Europe the warband formation coincides with the violent ideological competition aspect - jihadist warbands always contain a core of true fanatics so can't really be bought off so easily.


Edgar said...

My thoughts about the pentagon official document is that it will state what they percieve to be in their interest to state. This may or may not be their actual assessment.

Cherokee Organics said...


This is perhaps your darkest essay yet. My gut feeling was that you were not writing to your normal audience perhaps? Anyway, it is not a bad idea to communicate those urgencies. I have long felt that foreign and domestic policy in the US is way too predictable. Interestingly enough I have read that gun smuggling is on the rise down here too.



Tyler August said...


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FiftyNiner said...

@Blue Sun,
I watched the third debate last evening and had a chilling moment regarding Clinton and what she might actually do if she were President. When she said that there was only a four(4) minute window to order a nuclear strike--and using that "fact" to justify never letting Trump have the nuclear codes--for me, it was the most frightening thing I've heard in this campaign.
All I could think of was the final scene from "Thelma and Louise" only in Clinton's version the whole country is in the back seat of the convertible while she and Huma Abedin take us over the cliff!

The irony of all this is that Clinton despises the military, but apparently is convinced that they are capable of executing any order that she could give, including attacking Russia! That will manifestly not end well for the US. The moment of an actual defeat for the United States as JMG has suggested, may not be as far off as we would like.

A vote for Trump is the only hope we have at this point for stepping back from the precipice.

Tidlösa said...

Perhaps somebody has mentioned this already, but the most sensible strategy from a American pragmatic perspective (if I´m permitted to give Pentagon Christmas presents and advise) is for the United States to evacuate large parts of its global "sphere of influence" and regroup/retrench behind a "near abroad" or "cordon sanitaire".

In the Middle East, that could mean giving up the Muslim world, except a few key nations like Egypt, Jordan or Turkey (they can also keep Israel). In Europe, it could mean giving up the Balkans, etc. Then, make a deal with Russia and China, hoping that *they* could stabilize the parts of the world the United States has abandoned, so that we don´t get a string of failed states or warband zones.

I think Trump is groping in the dark towards such a strategy, while Clinton (and Ryan) don´t even try, instead pinning their hopes on a final decisive crusade in Syria to stop the US imperial rot. Unfortunately, it´s possible that the imperial elite won´t get it until its too late, and even Trump is aggressive on some fronts - against Iran and against China, so he could probably be manipulated by some globalist faction. (Some of his supporters are also aggressive against Russia, such as Giuliani and Christie.)

The best scenario would be a multi-polar world with a balance of power (and even trade relations) between three or four great power blocs, and a few smaller ones. In fact, I would consider such a situation progress! Your favorite pretender to the great power throne, Brazil, would of course get a piece of the action.

However, you are right that things can get *much* worse, even assuming that the great powers don´t exchange nuclear warheads, or North Korea snaps. One clear and present danger which already exists is the collapse of Mexico into a warband zone, which could spill over into the US Southwest (assuming it hasn´t already). The warbands are already here...

Overall, both this weeks post and last weeks were among your best!

David, by the lake said...


I think you are correct re the general perception folks have that their state governments are more responsive. While people here in Wisconsin, for example, may feel frustrated with the state at times, I don't hear state politicians talked about as "creatures of Madison" the way people talk about "creatures of Washington." (On the other hand, I do think there are regions of states that feel or have felt unrepresented. When I worked in Denver a decade and a half ago, there was substantial sentiment among the more rural counties that the state government essentially represented the Denver and Colorado Springs metro areas and no one else. If I recall correctly, the county just north of where I lived, Weld, was one of the group of counties that more recently wanted to secede and form their own state.)

I have often wondered, in the absence of the bonds of empire and the benefits flowing inward from that imperial structure, is a nation as diverse and as large and the US even tenable? Had we not been the rising power we were historically, would we have been limited to a smaller, more concentrated form (and the rest of the continent aggregated into other entities perhaps)? Neither here nor there at this point, but it reframes the idea of disintegration of the Union as more of a "right-sizing" given the limitations imposed by culture and size. That is, our present structure is a temporary form enabled only by that imperial wealth pump. An alternative to fragmentation would be to adopt a looser federal structure, but that would be a tough pill for federalists to swallow.

Your point about the resource constraints is an important one. I don't think people realize how prominently resource conflicts loom in our future and how imperative it is that we reduce our reliance on finite resources and resources outside our borders. Unfortunately, with respect to the national level, I think we can pretty much write off the next four years as far as any productive steps being taken. If anything, we'll be digging our hole that much deeper.

We have our work cut out for us, for sure.

Fred said...

The mention of the impact of illegal immigration pushing wages down is important to bring up as that is the key issue at the bottom of the pay scale. At the top of the pay scale is HB1 visa's and all the mostly Chinese and Indian nationals let in to this country and given very high paying salary jobs. These are job that should be going to American raised workers, but corporations would rather bring in a foreign national than train our own to do it.

I personally know a dozen professional salary class immigrants who came in on these visas, totally overstayed their visa, still collect their salary and pay taxes, and it completely makes me angry. People feel they have a right to be here. Ok, whatever happened to following the law that gives you your rights?

Echo Beach said...

Michael, greetings from England,

Thought provoking stuff. I can't help thinking that JOE 35 may be the best case scenario.... There are a lot of intelligent, competent people in the defence sector so I'm certain that the possibilities you raise have been considered, and to some extent, planned for. I'm also certain that any discussions of an internal threat would, understandably, be keep confidential.

I do wonder if the changing balance of world power away from the US will occur over a much longer, multi-generational time line. After all, the British Empire reached it's zenith shortly after World War One but, within 30 years, was engaged in a rapid process of de-colonisation. It was also just after World War One that the United Kingdom itself began to disolve with the creation of the Irish Free State. Since then we have seen an increasing seperation between England, Scotland and Wales, which will, I believe, ultimately lead to Scottish Independence, and probably a reunited Ireland. Despite all the above, the UK is still seen as an attractive destination by many economic migrants and refugees, many of whom are prepared to risk their lives on the way here.

The recent vote to quit the EU is a bit of a wild card, but seems to be the most obvious sign of the beginning of the end of globalisation, but this too could take many years to play out...

As they say; we live in interesting times!

Iuval Clejan said...

There is another fact that can be extrapolated from the present, or actually from the shallow past of human civilizations: how instruments like the military become self-serving institutions, forgetting their original goals. In the case of the military that was defense. In the case of the government it is governance, or coordination of various human needs. Your first point, loss of legitimacy is an example of this phenomenon, which has occurred in past civilizations. But it is much to expect the military to be self-reflective and self-critical, or at least those who do in the military may expect to be marginalized as someone here pointed out. Actually, the Clintons should know this, given that the idea was first put forward (as far as I'm aware) by Carroll Quigley, Bill Clinton's guru/mentor/professor. He was not a ROP devotee in that he noticed historical cycles and even tried to find causes for them (which he claims was not done by Vico, Spengler or Toynbee), saw tradeoffs among various human needs and social instruments created to address them, but had a heavy bias towards Empire (his definition of civilization is a culture with an instrument of expansion), considered native and environmentally friendly cultures which did not have said instrument to be "parasitic", and saw social inequality and innovation as two necessary ingredients for said instument. What do you think of Carroll Quigley's legacy apart from the instrument/institution theory?

Brian Kaller said...


When I read the JOE points, before even reading the rest of your piece, I had the same thought you did – that this describes the present, not the future. I was also struck by their apparent assumptions that the USA is entitled to unimpeded access to all commons, that the US cyber-war measures should not face any credible defence, and that, in general, the USA – meaning the executive branch of the federal government – should be able to do whatever it wants. Anything else, apparently, is a crisis.

Mind you, I’m quite fond of my native land, and have tremendous respect for the troops sworn to protect it – more respect than the government has had lately. I have to admit, though, that most other countries in the world don’t share these assumptions.

The Irish don’t travel the world thinking that everyone should look up to them because they’re Irish, even though they usually rank far ahead of the USA in “most popular country” surveys. Most don’t assume that the Irish government should always get its way, or that its current political system should last forever. As far as I know, most Australians, Canadians, Indians and Brazilians don’t think so either, yet I daresay many might love their countries and have tolerably good lives.

The USA losing its superpower status could turn out to be beneficial for many Americans --- money that currently goes into maintaining an empire could be freed up for other uses, the global resentment against the USA might subside, and more regional economies and democracies could flourish.

I know you’ve proposed the same things, in everything from Twilight’s Last Gleaming to Retropia, and I know it’s all hypothetical – realistically, the decline could also get very painful indeed. It helps me, though, to know that it doesn’t have to be.

Violet Cabra said...

These political and military developments and their implications are utterly ghastly and their imminence makes them all the more so. While I've logged many, many hours learning a few basic skills to help weather these storms, it is clear that this sort of convergent contingency necessitates a focus not just on works, but also on faith. There is no way to be fully prepared for this sort of thing.

I've been reading Jung in the past few weeks after finding his book The Undiscovered Self 'randomly'. His analysis of the need for people to know themselves deeply in order provide stable to political institutions seems very apropos. Jung then also writes about the need for religion to counterbalance "mass-mindedness," allowing for an extramundane ethical system so that the exigencies of the mundane are less apt to turn people into monsters. He also makes the insightful point that once people pass a certain threshold of emotionality it is impossible for them to think. It is eerie to see so many of my peers grow increasingly mass-minded, although there are a few notable exceptions, especially amongst those who have religion. I've noticed a certain pervasive psychic shallowness even amongst some of my most economically prepared peers. More than a few years ago, I see not only people speaking in media soundbites, but increasingly retreating into childish behavior. It, tragically, seems that people look around themselves, feel the inner stream of divine causality, and decide that if they hide under the bed maybe our future won't find them.

In my walks in the woods I sometimes experience in the psychic ethers the ghastly karma of European conquest and colonization of North America, and can't help but wonder if there has been some sort of mysterious draw towards such short sighted and self-destructive action in the realm of politics. If the collective memory which resides in the land has made the masses more supportive of exactly the sort of politicians the would help lead to a balancing of collective karma given that the land creates our bodies and is an ever present part of the collective and individual psychic existence. To me, the spirit of the times seems to indicate that there is more depth in the road we've been going down than merely standard-issue late-period civilization decadence.

Andrew said...

Hi JMG. I'm reading (on your recommendation) David Fleming's amazing Lean Logic at the moment and he mentions one of the ideas you discuss here, a time fallacy that he calls the permanent present. That is, an assumption that the future is same as the present so we should make decisions on the basis that the world won't change. And then he says this: "this presumption of a constant present is a leading symptom of the dementia that afflicts the judgement of governments... the patient is so elevated, so far removed from ordinary life, so taken up with a global vision, so protected by experts, so busy, so short of sleep, and so absent that he or she has no sense of time or place." My job brings me into contact with a lot of very senior business people and this description struck such a chord with me I had to sit numbly with the book on my lap for a moment.

On a related note, if any readers of the archdruid report are contemplating buying Lean Logic, do so. It is expensive but gives you the feeling we all know from reading this blog, when an insight just opens a window in your mind and the world looks different than it did a moment before, about every second page. There is an edited paperback version called Surviving the Future out soon I think too.

Ben Johnson said...

JMG - Had a Retrotopia morning at work yesterday. The IT people were installing an update to Windows and, shocker, the computer aided dispatch program had to go offline for the update. On top of that, the new CAD program we use is a pain to operate and, according to more senior coworkers, is much less user-friendly than the older CAD program it replaced. Fortunately, our radios remained functional, so no monkeywrenching for them. For backup, we use a high tech system of paper cards, pens, and a holding rack for organization by squad and beat. I would love to switch to cards full time and let the IT gremlins run Windows updates for the rest of my career.

As far as the JOE, I remember reading a JOE from around 2008-2010, that explicitly listed climate change as a national security risk. I wonder why it got dropped for this edition?

Eric S. said...

How long does it take the language surrounding some of these topics to change in the modern arena, though? For instance, in the case of domestic insurgency and Civil War, would the word “civil war” ever appear anywhere in official channels? It seems like the way we talk about military situations has gotten so layered up in newspeak that there’d be no honest way to discuss these topics (for instance: America officially hasn’t been involved in a War since WWII). A modern Civil War would look absolutely noting like the Civil War of the 19th century, in which you had two sovereign powers with presidents, militaries, laws, resource bases and chains of command declaring war on each other and marching into battle. It’d wind up looking much more like… well… modern civil wars (such as the situation in much of the Middle East), where you’d have multiple different factions with completely different goals and interests going against both each other and the government often-times within the same states. A Civil War would be very difficult to follow it seems and could wind up going on for years before regular people even started using that term, and of course you’d never see the word “civil war” appear once in a single government press release. We wouldn’t have “insurgency groups,” we’d have “agitators,” “violent protestors,” “rioters,” and so on, and even if they used more martial sounding names like “militia,” they’d do their best to make sure the word carried the mocking connotations it was given during last year’s Oregon situation in order to deflect any concerns of organized military action, and if actual damage was done, the phrase used would be “domestic terrorism.”

Actual loss of legitimacy would be purely the result of the spread of certain dangerous ideologies that would have to be rooted out… Any acknowledgement of the marginalization of the United States would be attributed to Russian and Chinese propaganda, rather than actuall Russian and Chinese ascendency, and the official word for monkeywrenching warfare would be that favorite term that is as broad as it is empty: “terrorism.” We’ve seen how warband formation is handled with the way ISIS has been treated, and we’ve already acknowledged the eerie silence that follows every time an environmental prediction that was being used as a political tool actually comes true.

In other words, when anything is acknowledged as happening at all, the official list is going to be providing the code for the problems you presented in your own list. Which means it’s going to take extra work to read through and interpret current events.


Re: Blogger issues: Does that mean the Archdruid Report is going to be switching to the print version full time? Or will you just be switching to a new site?

onething said...

Goodness, Blue sun, my sentiments exactly.

Patricia Mathews said...

Well, Trump has openly stated that if the election goes against him, he'll take other steps. I don't think he's just whistling Dixie here.

Another woman who didn't need a meteorologist to tell her which way the wind was going to blow - J.D. Robb. Her futuristic police procedurals have their many flaws, but her backstory of The Urban Wars (starting date given as September 11, 2001) seems dead on. Especially her postwar NYC, where you can buy soy dogs from carts on the streets, and similar signs of shortages and rundown infrastructure at the height of that period's version of the 1980s (the cops's partner's *parents* are aging hippies) and in one book, a fugitive war criminal from the Urban Wars (an ex Homeland Security guy)features prominently- well, she hit the nail on the head there, too, I think. Best case scenario, that is.

Don't believe anything she has to say about space travel. Or offworld penal colonies. Now when a bad guy escapes from one to Earth without sucking vacuum somewhere in from his lonely rock way out there, and hits the ground running without any microgravity-induced loss of strength. I'm not even sure Robb realizes they'd be under microgravity! And the expense ... shakes head. But she sure has the Bad Recovery part down cold.

Come to think of it, she's Irish.

Patricia Mathews said...

P.S. I did not watch last night's toxic waste dump - and still spent a sleepless night with the pangs of - too much chile yesterday? There's no justice in this world.

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20161020T145752Z

Dear JMG,

Thanks so much for this.

I'd like to put in my own two cents' worth regarding your disagreement with "ganv" (his posting timestamped "10/19/16, 4:21 PM").

(a) It is true, JMG, as you say in dissenting from ganv, that the USA is going down. A country that produced last night's debate (I read the transcript pretty carefully) is a country whose institutions are losing legitimacy. It's as Dmitry Orlov once wittily wrote, that the cosmos abounds symmetries; we have the positron and the electron, the up quark and the down quark, the swiftly collapsing SU and the swiftly collapsing US.

(b) But, JMG, ganv does make a good point when he remarks on the probable shape of the emerging Moscow-Beijing diplomatic condominium: Populations of 1.3 billion (China) vs 0.14 billion (Russia) doesn't make an equal partnership. To ganv's population statistic I would like to add the asymmetry in industrial capability. Russia exports almost no manufactures to North America and the EU, being if anything still worse at making things than North America and the EU themselves are. (Vovan Vovanitch should have tried turning this industrial situation around, but he has failed. He is the new L.I.Brezhnev.) China, by contrast, exports every imaginable thing, across the entire spectrum of technological complexity - textiles at the one end, tablet computers at the other, and all things between.

It might be helpful here to note (a Russian friend and I pondered noted the point this week) that Russia's ancient intellectual DNA owes something not just to Byzantium but also to China, via the Mongols.

Russia has a kind of future, and (being a tough, ancient people, like the Chinese) has possibly a less dark future than the USA. That future might involve, however, being a junior partner in a Chinese diplomatic sphere - a sort of 21st-century equivalent of what the post-1945 United Kingdom (a junior) has been to the USA (a senior).

Toomas (Tom) Karmo (in Estonian diaspora, near Toronto)

PS: Dear Patricia Matthews ("10/19/16, 7:34 PM"): Thanks so much for your pointer, namely to an analysis of urbanologist Jane Jacobs. A sentence from that publication, regarding efforts in the late-and-unlamented SU to educate Americans on SU culture through a glossy magazine, is specially fine, to the point of deserving quotation here: The Soviets produced a counterpart publication, Soviet Life, but despite its editors' best efforts - "Leonid I. Brezhnev's Reminiscences," "A Guide to the 15 Union Republics," "Tashkent, Seattle's Sister City" - it somehow failed to attract a commensurate following in the U.S. :-)

PPS: The same Russian friend as has pointed out to me the presence of Chinese chromosomes in the ancient Russian intellectual DNA remarks on the current trade in SU Kitsch (the Red Army belt buckles, the Lenin ashtrays, the golden stars). Authentic SU Kitsch commands high prices, I suspect both among western connoisseurs and back in the former SU. I would love to buy some, but cannot afford it. Now, however, you can get cheaper, imitation SU Kitsch. This gets manufactured in the same powerful country as manufactures our other consumer goods.

Pedro Pinho said...

"as do the establishment of Chinese naval bases across the Indian Ocean from Myanmar to the Horn of Africa, "

Actually, and most incredibly, China is atempting to establish a foothold in the Atlantic!

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20161020T153509Z

Dear JMG,

Over the coming two decades, it might be worth keeping an eye on possible creeping militarization in American society. Having lived just one year in the USA, and that back in the Gorbachev era, I can't comment intelligently. But a country in deep cultural trouble might start moving in a military direction. People disgusted with the political process will try to put their faith in some institution or other. The two main options at the moment seem to be the admittedly troubled Church (not historically a power in the USA) and the military (perhaps to some USA minds now - I speculate - more promising).

One of my fears, as an admittedly uninformed outsider, is a military coup by 2035 or so, with the whole USA entering a soldierly lockdown in the manner of Rome under Diocletian.

Perhaps you can some day weigh this coup scenario up against the more widely discussed, to some extent competing, scenario of a Second Civil War, and indicate where you find the balance of USA probabilities to lie?

On the level of private, practical decision-making in those current USA clients which are Canada and Estonia, I like cultivating the "Monastic Response". Under this approach, we give up on wider society for the time being (knowing that whether we get Diocletian or we get Civil War, the traditional Pax Americana is in any case wrecked), and yet work hopefully in our own little local municipal or neighbourhood spheres, saving what bits of culture we can save.

having soon to turn here in the Canadian-Estonia diaspora to maths studies
(my own effort at "saving bits of culture"; initial bits of the second problem set
from chapter 2 of James Munkres's Topology beckon today),


Phil Knight said...

Here in the UK we're about to have the privilege of seeing the might of the Russian Navy squeeze through the English Channel. It is being catastrophised by the Daily Mail here:

What I find fascinating is how feeble this fleet is compared to the vast armadas that spanned the globe during World War II. And their NATO opposition is even more denuded. For all the obsession with technology, there is an increasingly cheap and scruffy feel to modern war. Military uniforms are more and more beginning to resemble overalls, or casual sportswear. During the conflict in the Ukraine, the protagonists were dressed like drug dealers or amateur boxers.

I suspect that if there is another world war, after all the prestige weapons are quickly used up or destroyed, it will quickly become a ragged and aimless affair.

BoysMom said...

I read recently that the USA (and much of Europe, the credit was laid on Catholicism) is a nuclear family culture, while many other cultures are kinship cultures, namely, that we put much less value on more distant family ties and more on individualism and nuclear family. Now we all are aware of the much-lamented collapse of the nuclear family here.
I'm curious if anyone knows of any historical examples of highly individualistic imperial collapses. What I've read of the historical warbands is that they were extended family groups, and if that's necessary for group cohesion, then only some parts of the USA and only some social classes will be able to form them. My own cousins have dispersed worldwide, and I can't see a scenario in which they both need to and are able to return to a non-existent ancestral home. Wage-class folks seem to stay closer to old family homesteads, and thus be more likely to form clan-based groups.

John Dunn said...

Drug cartels are operating as war bands. Certainly within their own countries.

Damo said...


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Edward said...

What's a green wizard to do if there are war bands that will come and pillage everything that was painstakingly put together? It kinda takes the wind out of your sails.

Nicholas Colloff said...

Excellent analysis as usual except that I will demure on the prospects of China - the demographics alone (with the world's most rapidly ageing population and one of its most unbalanced) should give pause - and in spite of significant Russian wishful thinking, there is no traction in China, now or in the foreseeable future for an alliance (the last time that was tried, it lasted, even with strong ideological commonality, less than a decade...

Thomas Daulton said...

Funny, now I haven't read the actual JOE-35, only your snips, but I seem to remember a JOE-25 (or something like that, my memory is vague) which predicted climate change, refugees of climate change, and even an indirect nod towards warbands ("stateless actors" and "asymmetric warfare") for the year 2025. Not in so specific and unflattering ways as you have laid out, but in some ways perhaps _more_ perspicacious than the JOE-35. Which got me thinking about the process of institutional and cultural forgetting. I also know more than one Peak Oil-er who got impatient with waiting for the sudden crash, decided the best thing to do was to milk the system while there's still time, and gradually transformed back into a "muggle" -- not specifically denying and repudiating the reality of Peak Oil theory, but in every tangible respect now acting like someone who's never heard of it.

It amazes me that a person _or_ institution could go through the "Peak Oil Initiation" as you have called it, see the world through new eyes, and then walk _backwards_ and pick up the old eyes once again. (I guess my amazement is a symptom of not being able to fundamentally give up on the Myth of Progress, it still colors my thoughts.)

You have often warned or begged us not to let this or that facet of civilization "be lost" or "forgotten". I wonder if you'd care to examine it from the other side: how exactly do people and cultures forget hard-won truths so quickly? Because it seems from my observing that, although civilizations take centuries to collapse, a profound forgetting can take less than a generation. Like (** sorry to pop-culture geek out **) I used to think it was silly the way George Lucas depicted it in Star Wars, that there were in the recent past huge armies of Jedis who flaunted The Force openly in public, had massive institutions and buildings, and then less than 20 years later when Luke grows up, most people think (like Han Solo) that The Force is a hoax. I used to think that was unrealistic but now I'm not so sure.

You have ruminated in past columns about arts and technology are lost in a dark age, but I'm not sure you've written an in-depth exploration of the process by which this happens. Mostly I think you've written that during a collapse when it's hard to keep food on the table and the wolves and warbands away from the door, your average citizen has no time to practice the subtle skills and techniques necessary to keep fine arts alive. But forgetting doesn't only happen _after_ the collapse is underway, it happens even in the best of times. Right now Donald Trump is grousing that the election may be rigged, and all the same people are deriding him for that impossible belief, as were bemoaning the rigging of elections in 2000 and 2004. In part as you've written that is the "senescence" of elites who believe they control what they do not in fact control, but this particular forgetting is also based on fear of the truth.

Might be an interesting solo topic for a column, instead of just discussing in passing. To delve into all the many and disparate ways that people and cultures forget hard-won truths.

pygmycory said...

I used wordpress for my blogs when I was doing that. It too, can have annoying updates. Some of them can be avoided, others you are stuck with. A large amount of computer savvy is not required to use it. I don't have that either.

Mountain said...


I do web for a living. How many pageviews a month does your blog receive and how much is modest?

MichaelK said...

Roaming around the US in the pick-up truck I bought for next to nothing was a wonderful and rather frightening experience for me. Okay, my truck wasn't exactly a Mercedes, but the state of the roads was shockingly bad, compared to a country like Germany where they seem to do nothing else but repair their roads. I kept thinking about ancient Rome and their network of roads built to tie their empire together and they symbolized the empire too. What does the dreadful state of US roads and brigdes symbolize?

I spent a lot of time off the beaten track in what one might call 'Trumpland.' I found the people really interesting and friendly, open and desparate to communicate and get a response. It was a question mostly of me looking like I wanted to listen that sparked and fueled the process.

The hurting is palpable. The signs of infrastructral decay are hard to miss and the closed stores in mainstreet and the abandoned mills. The economic and political polarization is... dangerous. It reminds me in many ways of the period before the Civil War where one part of the country seemed intent on 'demonizing' another. Today it seems to be the 'white working class' that have been tatooed with absolutely dreadful labels; racist, homophobic, sexist, ingnorant, stupid, uneducated, unsophisticated...

It's like many urban liberals/left people, and lots in 'Medialand' have a kind of cultural concept for the white working class, which is pushing these people into the gutter and into the waiting arms of political demagogues. This is dangerous.

This is a vast subject, the tectonic plates of history moving under us. How much can anyone really understand about this?

thenoteswhichdonotfit said...

Recently, I travelled to the State of Jefferson, and the impression I got from the local people is that they see the national government as more legitimate than the California state government - which would explain why they are trying to form a new state within the union rather than leave the union. I think their website ( is rather full of Americanism. However, the California state government will fight their efforts tooth and nail, because if Jefferson leaves California, it will take most of California's current water supplies with it.

Dorda Giovex said...

this might be a good read about a woman with power in a failing empire. My opinion is that it does not matter .. the beginning of collapse is caused by useless upper class with a misplaced sense of entitlement messing up everything and not even realizing that they are losing loyality.

David, by the lake said...

Others may have posted or commented on this already, but our "leadership" is reaping what it has sown:

Choice quote from Duterte (edited for presentation here): "America does not control our lives. Enough bullsh--."

Straight-up announcement of realignment. Wow. I wonder how this is playing inside the bubble.

Shane W said...

Unlike some, I take it as a given that we will divide up Nine or more nations, but the devil is in the details for me. Though I probably will indeed be living in the Confederacy in the next ten years, if I don't leave, I'm not at all convinced that it will be worth living in, considering the insane ideas most Americans now have regarding people, history, government, darn near everything! I'm reminded of JMG's post last summer discussing revolution, where he was discussing the French revolution--the predicament is that while the status quo is intolerable, what replaces it could be worse. Was Stalin really an improvement over the czars?

Robert Mathiesen said...

Thank you, Pedro Pinho, for the link to the article about Chinese initiatives in the Azores. I had not known about this. I think it might have strategic implications far beyond the obvious military one, at least here in the costal Northeast of the United States, where there is a fairly large Azorean diaspora. Do you happen to know whether there is anything similar going on (on a much smaller scale) in the Cape Verde Islands, since we also have a large Cape-Verdean diaspora here as well? An easy way for any foreign power to ramp up the incipient crisis of legitimacy within the US would be to work to improve the economic lot of the homelands of the diasporas that we have here, especially where members of these diasporas are already somewhat disprivileged.

Ezra Buonopane said...

Given how quickly the United States's advantage in the global arena after the cold war disappeared, how long do you think the Sino-Russian alliance will maintain its grip on the world? China's recent loosening of population control measures and encouraging/forcing of rural citizens to move into cities and become dependent on the fossil-fueled global economy are likely to create very large problems in the coming decades. Much will depend on how quickly they can reverse that process as they realize that the model of development that they're trying to emulate is a dead end. I also think it's very likely that China and Russia will resume their old rivalry once the US is out of the way, competing for control over smaller satellite states. Russia has a pretty clear advantage there, largely due to the fact that Russia can meet a much larger portion of its demand for natural resources from within its borders, while China will be forced to rely on some sort of imperial wealth pump to support its vast population. If they're any smarter than the US, they may be able to agree to stay out of each other's way (with Russia controlling the atlantic hemisphere and China controlling the pacific, or something like that), but conflict between them seems to me the most likely way Chinese/Russian global hegemony will end.

Robert Mathiesen said...

I would like to echo and support what Alexandru Ursachi has written, that Ukraine is not precisely a failed state. The territory where Ukrainian is (and was) spoken lies athwart one of the oldest cultural and historical fault-line that runs through Europe, namely, the thousand-year-old line between Roman Catholic Europe and Eastern Orthodox Europe, and for most of those thousand years there has also been a strong Muslim (Tatar) presence in that territory as well. For most of those thousand years, too, the boundary was between them anything but sharply delineated: even before 1200 CE, traces Catholic influence can be found as far east as Northwestern Russia, and traces of Orthodox influence as far west as Southeastern Poland. To maintain a stable European state across this territory, and to create a stable national identity on the basis of a shared language, is quite difficult, especially when the territory lies between two more powerful states to the east and to the west (Russia and Poland). Perhaps Ukraine should be called a frangible state, not a failed one. Old Yugoslavia was another such, most of which is now broken quite permanently into Croatia in the west and Serbia in the east.

[email protected] said...

Hi John

Great post. Very good summary of your vision of the future.

I thought you may be interested in reading my latest take on the US elections as well as my book review on your American empire book, which was superb.

I look forward to your feedback.



Martin B said...

Immigration and demography are like the tide -- slow but unstoppable, and I think they will be major forces in much of the world.

The Lebanese civil war of 1975-1990 was triggered by Muslims growing more numerous than Christians and upsetting the delicate balance of power. Muslims are openly threatening Europeans they will out-breed them in time, and anyway, you don't need a majority to call the shots if you have a sufficiently determined minority.

At the same time the West's advantage in technology and knowledge is slowly drifting east, to Japan, China, Malaysia etc. I am old enough to remember when the British used to say the Americans are good at mass manufacturing, but the real brains lies in research and engineering and Britain still leads the world in those fields. Hah! Talent follows the money, and went to the US, and will be heading east soon where the newest, fastest, most exciting things are happening, driven by the money made by efficient manufacturing.

Unknown said...

I suspect JOE-35 is Pentagon PR (of a sort) to help keep the vast funds flowing, and is perhaps also misdirection (of another sort); and that points you have raised are already being addressed in realms classified and inaccessible to the hoi polloi, particularly your first four which admit to ineluctable weakness, incompetence and things that go bump in the night, all things if spoken best left mostly unheard. As for your fifth, I have read on occasion that the Pentagon (perhaps DARPA or some such) has certainly been looking into climate change and resource depletion issues, one can only hope in the depth you speak to--ditto for all these issues.

(not sure how to establish identity--call me 'fogeyman')

Bob said...

@David, by the lake

The bubble may conclude that Duterte has to be assassinated.

Shane W said...

@japan patricia,
perhaps albuquerque patricia can chime in, but I think there's no universal regarding women, power, war, etc. Some societies are matriarchal, some societies send female Amazons off to war--I don't think there's any sociological or anthropological uniformity across cultures regarding feminine power and aggression.

Shane W said...

Regarding the ADR, it forms the basis of JMG's books. This blog acts as an old fashioned serial whereby we get snippets of JMG's work before it's published in book form. Therefore, if you're interested in having all this info in hard copy, go out and buy all the books (as I have) Shameless plug, but there you have it. LOL

temporaryreality (Wendy) said...

@Scotlyn, might I contact you (or you, me) off-thread to ask some questions about TCM related to a fiction project I'm working on? I do have it right and you're a TCM practitioner? If you're willing, please click on my profile link, which should show you some info, including "My Webpage" which links to my blog where, if you find my "credentials" check out, you could comment and I'd be able to contact you. Only, of course, if you've got the time and inclination. Thanks!

Nastarana said...

Dear Tidlosa, John Dunn, et al,

On the subject of war bands: the way you deal with them is you defeat them on the battlefield, as, for example, Egypt managed with difficulty to defeat the so-called "sea peoples" at the end of the bronze age, or as Aetius managed to stop the Huns. This tends to be extremely difficult and there is usually no hope of reclaiming territory which the war bands already control. I believe Egypt never recovered its' former possessions in what are now Palestine, Lebanon and Syria. Robert Capet was able to stop the Vikings outside the walls of Paris--I hope I have that right--but they still were either granted or allowed to keep what is now Normandy.

War making is extremely expensive and wasteful, and it is not unheard of for war bands to have a financial backer, as Byzantium has been accused of backing some of the Vikings and Venice accused (through its' agents, the Polos) of provoking the Mongol invasions. Attempts can be made to cut deals with the backers or in other ways attack the band's source of financing. Western states are now legalizing marijuana use, not because the populations are all potheads, but because western state citizens are tired of being expected to live with drug violence and plantations on public land that poison national forests and don't pay any property taxes.

GHung said...

Regarding: "....the warbands inevitably begin to move outward; the ethos and the economics of the warband alike require access to plunder, and this can best be obtained by invading regions not yet reduced to failed-state conditions..."

Venezuela Exports Its Crisis

siliconguy said...

"(with Russia controlling the Atlantic hemisphere and China controlling the pacific, or something like that)"

The return of the Greater East-Asia CoProsperity Sphere? It didn't work out so well last time, but if (an only if) Japan and China and Korea can calm their long-time mutual animosity it could work. Russia will happily sell them Siberian resources.

Shane W said...

I'm not so sure that war bands will mean total lawlessness/unpredictability. There may indeed be unwritten rules/conventions one can follow to get by and even thrive. Here I'm thinking of Mexico and the United States. Much has been made of drug violence in Mexico, yet many Mexicans are still opting to return home. In my experience dealing with the Mexican and Latin American expatriate community, it is a very strong, cohesive community w/strong social norms, whereas the US is the land of "anything goes and nothing matters". To me, the mainstream American culture is the more difficult one to deal with b/c the lack of social norms--people in the US often act spiteful just for spitefulness' sake, and a lot of that has to do with how ill our culture is right now. So maybe war band culture is not that bad if it comes with well known norms and rules that if one follows, one can survive and thrive.
Regarding empire and federal overreach, it began with the Civil War. The federal government, under Lincoln, had to violate time-honored norms of the loose federalism the US was founded on to bring the South to heel and force it back into the Union. From there, it was just a short period until we began overseas imperial adventures w/the Philippines, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. So the federal overreach in the name of empire has been going on a long time.

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20161021T014059Z

Dear JMG,

It is **POSSIBLE** that your difficulties with using the Google "blogger" software derive from a special feature of your overall cyber-setup, which runs a little contrary to what Google ultimately desires of you. I believe that you use Google "blogger", and yet are not so deeply entrenched in the Google universe as to use gmail. It is **POSSIBLE** that people who do what Google ultimately desires (namely, relying on Google for mail services as well as blog hosting) get a smoother "blogger" experience.

Here is what I think Google's ideal citizen, Monsieur or Madame (let's for concreteness settle on "Madame") Ideal Citoyenne does: (a) She creates a gmail account. (Perhaps the Google desideratum is even that the account name be close the actual human name, though I am not sure of this. To be prudent, let's take it that the selected gmail account is indeed [email protected]) (b) She subsequently, and while duly logged in under one tab of her browser to as [email protected], creates a blogger account, making any authentication or identifier details as close as possible to what the Google servers are used to seeing for her when she reads her e-mail. Let's take it that her blog becomes, with the same password as she has been used to using for her gmail account.

Upon performing these two actions, in this order, Madame Citoyenne finds that all goes very smoothly indeed. No matter where in the world she might be - she is in some random cyber-cafe, perhaps, in Outer Slobovia, sipping the chai and perusing the Slobovskaya Gazyeta - she merely **FIRST** logs in to in ONE tab of a browser, and **NEXT** opens a new tab in that same browser, entering the URL On entering that URL, she finds herself promptly authenticated by the "blogger" server, ready to edit her blog.

I make these speculations on the strength of my own various, on the whole smooth, experiences with gmail and "blogger".

Admittedly, there are different ways of blogging. In my own little world, I act rather like Madame Ideal Citoyenne in respect of one of my two main blogs,, and in a different way in respect of my other main blog, In the second of the two just-cited blogs, I avoid Google and its tricky, high-tech ploys, opting instead to go as low-tech as possible - hand-coded HTML, static pages, low-budget server (server selected to make remote ssh logins possible, with command-line Linux prompt displayed in the login terminal, for a normal Linux shell session).

Most people are liable to find the appearance of familiar and reassuring, and the appearance of rebarbative. But that's a matter of taste.

thinking that this might help you or others a little,


PS: I can always be phoned, by anyone, if any of this wearisome stuff needs discussion - (Canada) 6472679566.

Patricia Mathews said...

@Patricia Ormsby, Shane W - the prevalence of powerful, evil, etc women in fiction, pop culture, and real life seems to be a generational thing.

My contemporaries were just starting to nibble at the possibilities of having power. The few formidable old ladies still around were way up in years, and the ones who had even held offices or done things during the war were fading away or slipping back into the home - or losing out to their fluffy little juniors. Pop culture reference - Katharine Hepburn's characters being slowly replaced by Margaret Houlihan in M*A*S*H.

Fast-forward to the female Boomers pioneering (actually, some of the pioneering was done my my contemporaries in middle age, but the Boomers made it stick) the move to claim the sort of power that you see today, and their next-junior, GenX, giving that power the sort of hard edge their male counterparts were flaunting like banners. You know, the Greed is Good boys and girls in the bubble. My own daughters are not only tougher and harder-headed than I am, or their father, but I often feel they can't help but see us as incurable airheads without a clue.

If you run the movie backwards, you see the Suffragettes and social reformers of the early 20th Century give way to the hard-edged post WWI crowd. Who, if you study WWI, had every right to be called the Lost Generation. For the male of the species, Humphrey Bogart. (Note his epic clash with Katharine Hepburn in African Queen - one of my favorite adventure movies. Pure clash of values.)

And don't get me started on the Gilded Age! For which I give you Scarlett O'Hara.

And the balance of the wheel goes round and round.....

Patricia Mathews said...

PS re warbands circa 1500 years ago - some of the barbarians were Roman in all but name, while some Roman citizens with good Roman names and credentials were barbarian by culture. But as for inviting the barbarians in for political reasons and backing then, it's been tried. Notably in British England as the Roman influence was fading into memory. One of their chiefs invited the Saxons in as anti-pirate protection. Of course, once they got their boots in the door, they moved in and stayed.

A later Anglo-Saxon king tried the same thing, including buying off the Danes. Enter Knut, adding the north of England to his North Sea empire, and then actually becoming King of England. (And actually, apparently, gave them good government, which tells you haw far the descendants of those seax-wielding pirates had fallen.

"...and that is called 'paying the Danegeld'..."

You think Kipling was just commenting on *ancient* history? He saw which way the wind was blowing, too.

gjh42 said...

I do see acknowledgement of some real future situations couched in delicate language in JOE-35, but then (p. 5)
"Rebalanced energy security.
Large increases in economically viable and proven hydrocarbon reserves, increasingly accessible through technological advances such as fracking, will continue to place sharp, downward pressure on energy prices."
What kind of oil are they smoking?

Charles Justice said...

I wouldn't write the United States off just yet. I remember at the turn of the century people were predicting that China's Economy would overtake the U.S. Even if it does, it won't last. China's position is perilous. There is no precedent in the world for a country of more than one billion. One thing I have noticed is that the price of real estate in Vancouver BC has gone through the roof. Why? Because a lot of people from China are parking their money there. Why? Because they don't trust their own political or economic system. Their lack of confidence says something, and it is not a complement. In the next twenty years the pressures on China will build up until the whole system self-destructs. When the dust settles the United States will be still standing.

Bill Pulliam said...

Though I am certainly no expert on warbands, I can easily see a couple of ways to deal with them:

-- Join them.

-- Hide from them (be far enough from the travel corridors that it is not worth going out of the way to raid you).

-- Have nothing.

And I can think of one certain way to perish at their hands:

-- Fight back.

I personally would NOT want to be in suburbia or exurbia during a warband situation...

jessi thompson said...

As a native Texan, I think Texas would retain legitimacy because its residents are very loyal to the state. I live in Illinois now, where the state government is held in more contempt than the federal government. Some States could easily retain legitimacy simply by not making big and obvious mistakes. Others only keep their power by the force of the state, with no ties based on loyalty or history.

John Michael Greer said...

Jbucks, the US is no longer China's largest trading partner, and they've been selling off their US treasury holdings at a remarkable pace for the last year or so. I don't expect either Russia or China to surpass their own problems, but the US is much further down the curve of decline than they are; just as the Soviet Union collapsed well before the United States, the US will likely collapse well before China does -- and Russia at this point has a ways to go before its next collapse.

Donald, thanks for the data point! Trump signs have exploded all over the poor part of Cumberland in the last week -- I saw something like 20 more this week than last week while running the same set of errands today.

Geographist, I'll look around and see what I can come up with.

Cherokee, thank you!

Agatha, thank you also!

Allan, fair enough. That's more than I want to spend -- I'd have to monetize the site, which is something I really want to avoid -- but it's a useful data point. Thank you.

Patricia, my take is that the circle of people with access to power narrows steadily in the twilight years of a civilization, and sooner or later -- even in a society with massive gender prejudices -- it becomes possible for women who are connected to that circle by birth or marriage to claw their way to power if they're ruthless and clever enough. Still, it's a point that could use research.

Repent, good! Yes, there's often a bit of intersection between one blog and the other, though I try to keep it subtle. As for synchronicity, though, it's a massive factor in everyday human life, and those who figure out how to read it and use it have a serious advantage.

Sheila, congrats on your liberation from flying! Fortunately my upcoming trip is via carpool -- I'd be on the bus, but a bunch of other Masons are going the same place I am for the same reason, so we're sharing costs. As for the shape of things to come -- no argument there.

Tim, Germany lost some wars not too long ago, and so it knows it doesn't have the luxury of pretending that nothing can go wrong. The US isn't that lucky.

Barrabas, oh, I'll manage something. The trend you've pointed out is certainly involved, but there's also the simple fact that very little that the internet does actually pays for itself, the costs are starting to mount up, and so corners are being cut. Eventually that'll lead to the end of the internet itself.

Wendy, for professional reasons I have to use computers -- publishers insist on getting books in electronic format, and the internet is essential to book publicity these days -- but I'd be happier if that wasn't the case. I envy you your shared phone!

patriciaormsby said...

I agree wholeheartedly with ESN, that just because America finds it strategically desirable to destabilize countries that might pose a threat or that have resources America needs does not necessarily mean other countries would find that desirable. For example, despite shrill Democratic Party claims to the contrary, I have been told the Russian elite would prefer to see Clinton elected, for the simple reason that she is the devil they know and they have a plan for dealing with her. Recently, MSNBC admitted that Putin's reported expression of "support" for Donald Trump several months ago should have been interpreted as diplomatic politeness. He's not made any statement since then, perhaps because he knows his words will just get twisted again. With no evidence to support any of the claims being made against Russia, they are being reported as "fact" in a cynical bid to support Mrs. Clinton by whatever means are available against her opponent. In a nuclear age, the last things Russia needs is a destabilized America.

It is typical psychopathic behavior to claim someone innocent is guilty of crimes being committed by the psychopath. It makes it much harder for others lacking solid evidence or full confidence to make a counter accusation. That's how bluster works.

John Michael Greer said...

William, of course that played a role. It's still useful to mock the result!

Wendy, I'm hearing that from more and more people just now. Interesting.

Grebulocities, I think you're quite mistaken about fracking. Production from the Bakken has been dropping steadily of late, and bankruptcies in the industry are routine now; it had its boom, now it's entering its bust, and the externalized cost of the energy inputs necessary to make it happen at all is still dragging hard on the US economy. Thus I expect, in a couple more years, another ghastly spike in the price of oil, followed by another crash, followed by more of the same and more cascading economic damage. As far as I can tell, the standard run is still closest to where we are.

Scotlyn, excellent! Yes, Robin Hood's band is a classic proto-warband; if you happen to know the stories of Fionn mac Cumhaill tolerably well, you've got a great example of full-on warband culture at your fingertips; and Beowulf and the oldest strata of Norse sagas -- the stuff handed down from before the Viking era, above all the stories of the Volsungs and Niblungs, are also great examples. Replace their swords with cheap firearms and you've got the tales of the next dark age in advance.

Maverick, from what I've heard, your colleague is right. I suspect a lot of expats from India will be heading home in the decades immediately ahead.

Ursachi, it's a rare failed state that's entirely failed across its entire territory. Ukraine qualifies partly because of the mess in its eastern territories and partly because of the rise of Right Sector warbands; I'm aware that much of it is still relatively peaceful. As for the contributions of various nations to the mess in the Ukraine, of course Russia is involved; I'd suggest, though, that it was the US-funded coup against the Yanukovych regime, followed by overtures to bring Ukrained into NATO, that forced Russia's hand. I quite understand that you're not sympathetic to Russia's interests in the region, but those interests do exist, just as US interests hostile to Russia's also exist.

Peter, so noted. Perhaps we should talk!

Esn, there I think you're mistaken. Russia has certainly been willing to feed the chaos in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine for its own benefit! Toward the US, though, I doubt Russia would be interested in fostering the sort of self-feeding chaos the US is so good at generating and so bad at controlling. Their goal in funding a US domestic insurgency, rather, would be much more straightforward: to see the US partitioned the way the Soviet Union was. Revenge, one might say, is a dish best served with vodka and plenty of zakuski...

Greenie, I'll be in touch.

Phil, of course! Remember that I'm talking about 2035, 19 years from now. Further out, as I've discussed at length, no nation will be able to keep industrialism from digging its own grave.

Shane, that's doubtless a good part of it.

Maria, delighted to hear it. I hope similar conversations are going on all over the place.

John Michael Greer said...

.Mallow, fortunately, most warbands aren't interested in robbing the poor of what little they have; there are much better targets, and they know they depend as much as guerrilla fighters do on the forbearance and loyalty of the local population. If you're respectful, don't snitch, don't flaunt wealth, and accept their authority, your common or garden variety warband leader is more than happy to leave you unmolested -- and if you have skills that warband leaders and members want or need, such as the capacity to provide basic medical care, or brew good beer, or make and repair weapons, or recite their heroic deeds in the poetic forms popular at the time, you're going to be very popular indeed.

Edgar, granted. I simply thought it was appropriate to hold up the document itself to public mockery, whatever the motives that fed it.

Cherokee, if this one struck you as darker than this chronicle of decline and fall, I'm impressed! I tried to match the tone of the original JOE, though not the feckless optimism; that might account for some of it.

Tyler, thank you. I'll look into it.

Tidlösa, that is to say, we could do more or less what Britain did when its empire started costing it more than it was worth. That worked brilliantly; it's a pity that nobody in US public life seems to be able to think clearly about such things.

David, I'm far from sure the US is really viable even now, and as resource limits bite down harder, I suspect that a legal dissolution, followed by reorganization into a dozen or so new nations, is probably the least destructive option. Still, here again, next to nobody seems to be able to think clearly about that.

Fred, exactly. And yet if you mention that to the affluent, they start screaming about racism; it's a great way not to talk about the advantages that accrue to the affluent by forcing down wages and driving the working class into poverty and misery.

Echo Beach, it's precisely that 30-year trajectory that I see being repeated in this case, except without the great good sense that led Britain to give up most of its empire without a fight.

Iuval, it's precisely Quigley's pursuit of causes that makes his theories suspect to me. A phenomenon as complex as the decline and fall of a civilization is far too multifactorial to have causes simple enough for the human mind to comprehend. Thus it's much more useful to focus on description, so that a focus on causation doesn't lead to inappropriate highlighting of phenomena believed to be causative and a corresponding neglect of those that aren't.

Brian, if you want another example of a country that believed that it ought to have everything its own way, Britain during the period of its imperial zenith is a great example. Britain now is an example of what the US could be half a century from now, if we can extract our heads from a biologically improbable place and do the sensible thing for a change!

patriciaormsby said...

@Mr. Alexandru, my impression is that the refugees from Ukraine have mostly been ethnic Russians, who would be welcome in Russia, but probably not in your country (Romania?). Thus it would be unlikely for you see many where you are. About a million are said to have been taken in by Russia, fleeing extreme violence which is well documented, such as the Odessa massacre in 2014 ( ) and ongoing shelling of the east in violation of Minsk II. You are right that it is the eastern provinces that have been hit hardest by the conflict. I hope peace can somehow be achieved.

patriciaormsby said...

@Shane, yes I can see your point. It may be that in an already misogynistic culture, only the most ruthless women can claw their way up the ladder, thus reinforcing the prejudice.

Ursachi Alexandru said...


Ukraine into NATO? I doubt that any serious political ambition from the West actually had that final aim. At most, the purpose was to bring that country into the EU's economic sphere of influence, and even that fell short of any serious proposal for full EU membership. But since the EU and NATO have a very close relationship, I can see how the Russians' interests were at stake. Basically, the West wanted to have their cake and eat it too: they wanted to have access to Ukraine's resources, but were unwilling to go all the way to guarantee access to them, unlike the Russians.

Still, that sort of thing happened before in other former Soviet republics, way before the EU and NATO expanded into this region. In Moldova, it was in 1992 with the separatist region of Transnistria. Was that America's fault? Or Russia's support for separatist regions in Georgia in the early 90s? The idea that the West actually wanted to give Ukraine full NATO membership is pure Russian propaganda. The West doesn't give a rat's behind about Ukraine, they want Ukraine's resources but let them deal with those angry, abusive neighbors by themselves. And it doesn't do someone as well-informed as you to play into that kind of propagandistic rhetoric.

Cherokee Organics said...


No worries! Hopefully you will benefit from my learning experience. There are plenty of different ways to go with that process.

Ah, of course. To me this essay read to me as if you used a voice of command and authority so for me the essay had a certain sort of separation in the mode of communication and I was uncomfortable with that. Dialogue was not the intended outcome. :-)! But of course the people that wrote the report were not intending for an ongoing dialogue...

Hey, it rained here again today - for a change - and it was a slow day for me so I took a microphone out with me as I supervised the chickens and recorded all of the many bird calls as the sun went down. If you or anyone is interested they can listen to them here: 15 minutes in the orchard at Cherokee.



Mark said...

JMG said "we could do more or less what Britain did when its empire started costing it more than it was worth. That worked brilliantly; it's a pity that nobody in US public life seems to be able to think clearly about such things".

Britain only handed over the imperial keys to the US following WWII, at which point Britain was on its knees and could barely manage to rebuild its bombed-out cities, let alone run an Empire. It may look like a wise decision in retrospect, but it was only made from a place of absolute necessity. And Britain was still trying to punch above its weight in the world in 1956 at Suez and in assorted colonial adventures through the 60s and 70s. I don't expect America to be any different. We'll let go of the global role only when we absolutely have to, and we'll continue to pretend for a good time after that point as well.

Fred said...

Thank you for your response on immigration. Through that response and some others you made, it hit me like a lightening bolt - we are a third world country being drained of our resources by superior political and economic powers. The Indians and Chinese in professional salary positions here are stealing what resources we have left - which is our work processes and creative output. They are studying how we structure our corporations, run our meetings, motivate people in white collar jobs, brainstorm and develop ideas......its better than any degree program. And the hardest thing to do is manage and motivate people in any workplace, and learning it is a mentoring process, not a book or classroom process.

A friend of mine participates in a Chinese "cultural exchange" program as a business person. It occurs to me as treason in broad daylight, but this is what it is - the Chinese government selects American business professionals, flies them over to China, puts them up in 5 star accommodations, provides limo drivers, and grand banquets that look like state dinners. The Americans visit Chinese work places and provide consulting on business processes and development. Obviously being treated so well makes the Americans very generous with their advice and knowledge. The Americans stay one week to three weeks, then they fly them home and bring over another set. They bring Americans over for everything from agriculture operations, to factory design, to software development and integration, to customer representative training. Americans love to think they are superior and so they spill everything, teach and tell the Chinese everything.

And that is how you loose your position as a economic powerhouse - not with a bang, but with whimper - as the knowledge just drips drips drips out and is taken up elsewhere and implemented better, faster, cheaper.

trippticket said...

In 1400 miles of driving from the southern Appalachians to the Missouri Ozarks and back this week I didn't see ONE SINGLE sticker or yard sign for Hillary. I get that I was driving through the heartland and not up the eastern seaboard, but Chattanooga? Nashville? None there either. Not one. And on the highway? Plenty of those people don't live in flyover country. Where are all these supposed Clinton supporters hiding out?

By contrast there were HUNDREDS of Trump signs and stickers, hay and cotton bales along the highway with TRUMP spray painted on them, semi trucks with TRUMP scratched into the dust, no end to their mobilization.

The polls were wrong about Brexit, and I think they're wrong about Hillary too. The dominant minority seems to be grasping at straws and gasping for air.

Not that I'm a Trump fan either...

Oh, and Google in general has been a complete mess the last few days.

blue sun said...

@Shane W
Great analogy! When you're going down one way or another, bruises and cuts don't seem that bad!

(& @ Wendy, FiftyNiner, onething)
I find it very difficult in polite political conversation these days to articulate a less than desirable choice. A gray in a world where we're only allowed to speak of black and white. Flattened down to the plane of values where everything is an all-or-nothing moral dilemma. Once again, our great teacher here has given us the tools to unpack it. Only when I could distinguish between interests and values could I even comprehend my own thoughts!

Sven Eriksen said...

I always enjoy it when you engage in some form of military analysis, JMG. Speaking of which, I've been wanting to ask you your thoughts on the U.S.' Third Offset Strategy. I somehow have a hard time imagining anyone in Beijing losing sleep over it...

David, by the lake said...

Given that he (or she) would have to unite the left-behind working class by bridging the current racial (and parallel rural/urban) divide that keeps it fragmented at present, I'd guess that Fred(ricka) Halliot would turn out to be a bi- or multi-racial junior officer (say O3 or below, so an Army captain or lieutenant equivalent) who is a (visibly wounded) veteran of one of our more recent imperial stupidities. Such a person would be able to touch chords resonating with both sides of the divide (white rural and minority urban), perhaps enough to form the necessary bridge.

onething said...

Charles Justice,

" I remember at the turn of the century people were predicting that China's Economy would overtake the U.S. Even if it does, it won't last. China's position is perilous. There is no precedent in the world for a country of more than one billion."

I thought it already had...but anyway, China's high population is precisely why I am afraid of them. Desperation leads to strong actions.

David, by the lake said...

I really, really, really hope we aren't that foolish.

dagnygromer said...

[OT but relevant] Tech "boom" produces few jobs

pygmycory said...

For those who need a laugh at the expense of the US election:
weird Al Yankovich made a song of the recent debate.

Oh, and seen recently on pieces of cardboard attached to a telephone pole here on Vancouver Island: "Trudeau is a tyrant", and "Hilary for Prison 2016".

pygmycory said...

@Shane - prior to the US Civil War, the US invaded Mexico and stole some of their territory. People like Robert E. Lee and Ulysses Grant both fought in that war. Imperial expansion was already going on.

The US also invaded British North America in the war of 1812, and then you've got the US expanding westward at the expense of various First Nations... I'm not sure there really was a time in the history of the USA before the USA was Imperial.

John Michael Greer said...

Violet, those are very deep waters! The psychic shallowness and reversion to juvenility you've noticed is a massive political as well as psychological fact these days, and explains (and is explained by) a cascade of collective phenomena in America just now. My data point du jour is the sudden massive popularity of coloring books -- you know, the sort we used to color in when we were six or seven years old -- among American adults. At a time when this country desperately needs to make mature choices! As for the collective consequences of our national history, yes, I've felt the same thing -- though it's in the nature of hubris more generally to rush toward doom, convinced that what lies ahead is heaven on earth...

Andrew, that's a good point -- thanks for mentioning it. There's so much in Lean Logic that it'll probably take years for me to assimilate all of it!

Ben, I'm glad the backup was there! I think you'll eventually get your wish -- as the latest IT upgrades become more and more dysfunctional, the cards and rack will be used more and more often, until finally someone will quietly pull the plug on the computer system and part it out for scrap.

Eric, think of the last years of the Brezhnev era, when public discussion of the accelerating decline of the Soviet Union was wrapped in every thicker layers of euphemisms. Eventually there's a breaking point, and not too long after that the regime goes away. As for the blog, no, I plan to keep it online as long as that's still the most effective way to get it out there -- though long term plans to go to an all-print version are in process.

Patricia, thanks for the heads up -- I hadn't heard of Robb.

Toomas, in the long run, of course China will become the dominant partner -- for a time. The predictions I'm making are for the next two decades, and through most of that time, Russia's military superiority and fossil fuel reserves will give it a more or less equal position. (Eventually -- let's say by 2100 -- I see China crashing hard, and at that point Russia's position will be a much better one; that's a subject for another time, though.)

Pedro, thank you for the data point! It's not incredible at all; China's positioning itself to become the next global hegemon once the US goes down, and a global network of military bases is essential for that role.

Toomas, we're already most of the way there. I've seen US media figures already talking wistfully about how much better a military junta would be than the political system we've got now...

Phil, a very important point. The decline in net energy and the arrival of negative returns on complexity have given the world incredibly overpriced militaries that have, as you say, an increasingly scruffy look to them.

BoysMom, nah, classic warbands don't have a family-based structure at all. They consist of a charismatic leader and whatever collection of muscular young men and assorted hangers-on he can collect through his generosity with loot and his reputation for success. They flourish most when all other social structures have gone to bits, including family structures. It's only after the warband era has passed its peak, the warband leaders settle down to become petty kings, and their muscular young men become protofeudal retainers, that family structures and lineages start to mean something again.

pygmycory said...

Hmm. Sounds like if BC goes to war band territory in my lifetime, I should go be a skald. I can sing, write poetry and play assorted things. I even already own an anglo-saxon lyre! (Not that I'd be likely to use that. It's not too likely to be a popular instrument this time round)

pygmycory said...

What do women do during warband-dominated eras? Apart from becoming victims of rape-and-pillage, which I'd imagine most of us would prefer to avoid.

On a sillier note, Turin Turambar's collection of outlaws on Amon Rudh strikes me as a classic warband by your definition.

Jasmine said...

Dear Mr Greer

Great post. The west seems to be entering a new cold war with Russia and there has been a lot of talk about a possible conflict over Syria which would lead to a third world war and possible nuclear armageddon. I know you did a post on the possibility of nuclear war sometime ago and like you I think the chances are that we will not have a full scale nuclear exchange. If there was a nuclear war I think it would be unlikely to come about as a result of deliberate policy. The most likely cause would be an accident or miscalculation at a time of international tension when both sides were paranoid about each other. Unfortunately I think that this new cold war the west is having with Russia could be more dangerous than the old one we had with the Soviet Union, because we have become complacent about the risks of Nuclear war. Because deterrence worked during the old cold war there seems to be an assumption that it will always work, as if it was was a law of nature like the theory of gravity. Complacency like this is dangerous as it ignores the fact that we came close to a nuclear war several times during the old cold war. There was one incident in 1983 when one soviet radar station picked up what looked like five missiles headed to the USSR. Thankfully the commander was confident that this was a mistake and did not inform his superiors. If he had we might all be toast.

Jasmine said...

One of the factors that reduced the risk of a nuclear war during the old cold war that the fact that people feared that it was a real possibility, so they took steps to reduce the risk, by for example establishing a hot line between Washington and Moscow. I would feel much safer if people started to feel that fear again. I know you have a bit of a downer of apocalyptic thinking in regards to peak oil and I agree with you, as this kind of thinking does not describe what the reality of peak oil is like and is frankly counter productive. However apocalyptic thinking does describe what the reality of nuclear war would be like, as we literally have the power to destroy of our civilisation. I know that this might be a controversial thought, but I think that an apocalyptic fear of nuclear war may be useful and it encourages us make efforts to avoid it. Of course such fear will only be useful if it stays rational and keeps it feet on the ground, but then again such a fear is perfectly rational when you consider what a nuclear war could do.

Please don’t get me wrong Mr Greer, as I still consider that the chances are that we wont have a nuclear war, but those chances are certainly higher than they were a few years ago. If people started to fear nuclear war again it would make them question just what the hell we are doing in Syria and why we are confronting a nuclear armed power. Every intervention our leaders have made in the middle east since 2000 has been a complete disaster and I get the impression that they want to win the prize for being the biggest cock up merchants in history. If people started to feel some apocalyptic fear about the consequences of what they are doing, we might able to put the brakes on this.

Iuval Clejan said...

The advantage of knowing causes is that we can then try to avoid some unpleasant things (or choose to repeat pleasant ones) more effectively than if we don't know causes, but merely patterns. We might try to use the scientific method, postulate causes, try to choose them or avoid them and see if their consequences hold or not. Sociologists are just starting to do this on small scales. For example if Quigley is right that empires need instruments of expansion, and we want to avoid empires, then we make sure to have approximate social wealth equality, small but powerful militaries that keep being reminded they are there to defend, not to expand, and generally small, personal instruments that don't get the chance to become institutions. Or we can build in self-destruct mechanisms or checks and balances for instruments, avoiding things like industrial production and replacing it with artisanal production despite the efficiency tradeoff. Or avoid ideologies that disempower people from making changes or figuring out their needs because they think some paternalistic force (God, the Market or its invisible Hand, big Government, the aliens, etc) will take care of things. Weren't you trying to do something similar with Retrotopia?

Pantagruel7 said...

Regarding the phrase "pervasive psychic shallowness" that was posted above: I just got around to reading a SF novel that had been waiting on my bookshelf for years, possibly for over a decade: "Bugs" by the late John T. Sladek. It was copyrighted in 1989 but was it ever timely: military robots, mass shootings, and "pervasive psychic shallowness" in spades. A similarly critical/satiric novel, written in the 70's, is "JR" by William Gaddis. Both very timely reading. "Bugs," however, is much shorter and easier going for most readers.

Nastarana said...

Dear Tripticket, Apparently the Libertarian Party is not doing as badly as the LameStream Media would have us believe. Johnson has had the sense to do what he needed to do, which is get off national media and get out campaigning. He seems to be over 20% now, for what polling might be worth, in some plains and mountain states which suggests that he could a. deny some of those states to Clinton, and b. enhance the stature of his party as an alternative to the two discredited main parties.

Dear David by the Lake, urban minority communities chose this year to go with Clinton, and their support gave her the nomination with the help of some really spectacular election fraud. I fear this choice will prove to have been a tragic miscalculation. Voting for civil rights is not at all the same thing as voting for the promise of spoils from a corrupt patronage system. I am already seeing evidence on some leftist, self styled 'progressive', blogs and sites of a turning away from minority issues and minority preoccupations. Caitlin Johnstone, one of the most brilliant and uncompromising of young leftist writers today, has an article up at The Intercept about how progressives need to ally with Trumpists after the election, in which she does not even bother to mention or address "concerns" about the alleged racism of the Trump supporters. Down With Tyranny has an article from yesterday about how various Dem. congresspersons have been voting on food and farm issues. Until recently, discussion of food issues was all but forbidden in leftist circles, because of supposed elitism, but really because industrialized farming and food processing is the entry level jobs program for some groups of immigrants.

donalfagan said...

I'm wondering if our own tech will accomplish the monkeywrenching. Not on purpose, but we now have a throwaway culture rather than a repair culture. "Game over, man!"

And my wife used to tell me about the grim outlook in JD Robb's novels.

Jasmine said...

Dear Mr Greer

Its interesting what you said about the crisis of legitimacy. I have listened to a number of radio phone in’s recently about the Russian bombing of Aleppo. The usual format was a presenter and some expert claiming that we needed to do something to stop the Russians. However a lot of the people phoning in were supporting Russia or saying we should keep out of it and it was quite interesting to hear the presenter and expert getting exasperated about this and wondering why people didn’t share their point of view. Ever since Blair took us into Iraq the UKhas lost its appetite for intervening in other nations and there is a lot of distrust between the people and those in the establishment. If the present government was to try and get us involved in Syria I think there would be a lot of opposition. It is also interesting to note that Nigel Farage is often depicted as a right wing bigot. However he was opposed to the Iraq war and I have heard him say that we need to act in our own interests rather than being America’s Poodle like Blair was. In that respect I think he represents the views of many in this country.

Patricia Mathews said...

Re: Robb - you'll have to plow through a lot of things that interest Robb but which others may find uncongenial. The very Mary Sue-like marriage of her detective to Mister Tall, Handsome, Irish, and Rich, frex. But the background is so worth it.

As for last week's blog post, columnist David Ignatius is screaming bloody murder this morning over the complete lack of values in Trump's political ideas, such as they are. Nothing but pure pragmatism and interests! Eeek!

No link: I'll send you the newspaper clipping, snail mail.

I'll have to look up Finn McCool. What I did have on the Irish culture of that period was more centered on Cuchulain. And was essentially a survey of all things northern, including the Kalevala.

Grebulocities said...

The reason I think fracking has some more potential left in it is that it's undergoing an economic decline, but did not fail as quickly or catastrophically as expected despite a long period of ~$40-50/bbl prices. Production definitely peaked and is now declining, but that appeared to be entirely due to economic constraints. It and the tar sands still have lots of potential the next time prices go back up to the ~$80 range again, probably another five to ten years left at that price point. Although I guess the big difference between this and the situation in Oklahoma with the Penn Square Bank in the early 1980s is that they managed to fund a bubble during the highest interest rate regime in US history, while fracking is taking place under the lowest interest rate environment ever. If it weren't for that and a bunch of other overt or covert subsidies, it probably would have failed the same way.

To switch gears, I was wondering if you'd like to comment on the psychological effects of the domination of glowing rectangles (TVs, computers, smartphones, tablets, etc), and why they seem to attract people so much. Glowing rectangles started proliferating in the late 1940s and 1950s with the TV, and have gone an exponential increase ever since then. Now most people have at least a dozen of them, and they keep getting more and more glowing rectangles. If it weren't for the steady stream of glowing rectangles, it would be much more obvious that we've been going backward in the areas that actually make people happy, and there would be much less faith in progress.

Why do most people like their glowing rectangles so much? Is this just some built-in vulnerability of the human brain, being distracted by bright objects with changing pictures? Or is something deeper going on?

Golocyte Golo said...

As usual, no shortage of comments advising Mr Greer and others on reading the geopolitical situation, and how everybody else is reading it wrong. This is pretty fun & interesting for me, too, so I'm going to join in!

It is difficult for me to see the USA actually developing any open political revolt (let alone civil war) in the next few decades. As an example consider 1919, when we were much closer to open revolt, and had substantially greater social problems.

In that year, there was massive unemployment (lots of decommissioned soldiers), Wall Street was bombed(!), race riots occurred in dozens of cities where 1000's were killed, martial law was declared in 4 cities as I recall, extra-judicial deportations of labor leaders was taking place, and the elites were terrified at the prospect of a true populist revolution here and in Europe, particularly with the examples of idealistic new Socialist Republics being formed, which were based on high Left-wing ideals. Yet by 1946 or so we'd reestablished a mostly self-confident, unified society (though obviously some groups weren't included).

Also in 1919, you may recall, the Soviet Union had an open, announced policy of exporting radical leaders to Western countries, and Lenin was covertly funding socialist cells in the USA and Europe.

I'm not saying we'll follow the same path we did then. I'm just saying that we're not even close to a 1919 right now. We've lived so comfortably---all of us---that a little discontent and some protesting is making us think the USA is coming to an end!

Internationally right now, yes, obviously we're moving from a unipolar world dominated by the West's pet institutions (the IMF, the UN, the petrodollar system, etc), to a multipolar world that will have more old-fashioned balance-of-power style international politics (with the periphery countries suffering most). And yes, this will disadvantage the USA and we will become less wealthy, but I doubt this will be any kind of death-blow.

To keep us reasonably quiescent, the elites will keep throwing us more bones in the form of socialized this-and-that (medicine, college, baby supplies, perhaps Internet or food) for at least a few decades yet. Yes, quality will decline, jobs will get more scarce, and roads will get worse, but another Bernie or Trump will always show up and promise to fix it, and we will believe them. This can go on for a long time.

Golocyte Golo said...

@Toomas Applause on the maths! Do you know Allen Hatcher's book Algebraic Topology? I like it better than than Munkres, though it doesn't cover as much. But Hatcher decided not to play the corporate-textbook ripoff game, and publishes openly. Here is his download page.


John Michael Greer said...

John, drug cartels are warbands. They just haven't finished the ripening process that'll lead them across the borders in search of more plunder.

Damo, many thanks.

Edward, as I've been saying since the beginning of this project, as long as you're concentrating on collecting stuff, you're going to attract people who will want to take it by any means necessary. If you want to thrive, collect skills -- those make you more valuable alive and functioning than otherwise.

Nicholas, in the long run, no doubt, but we're talking about nineteen years. As for the Russo-Chinese alliance, er, it already exists; Russian and Chinese naval forces have just finished joint exercises in the South China Sea, Chinese military advisers are working with the Syrian government, and every few months Russia and China sign a new batch of trade agreements and technology transfers. Left to themselves, they'd be enemies, but the US has driven them into each other's arms, the way Hitler did with the US and the Soviet Union in the Second World War.

Thomas, that would indeed be interesting; I'll consider it.

Pygmycory, I used Wordpress for a shortlived blog under an alias, and didn't like it much, either.

Mountain, I get a quarter million page views a month, more or less, and would like to get something fairly cheap -- less than $20 a month, certainly. Any thoughts?

MichaelK, exactly -- I see the same thing every time I step out of my house. Will you please repeat what you've posted here as often as possible in places where the affluent and clueless will see it? Thank you!

Notes, well, yes -- there are some state governments that are even worse than the federal government, and California's is high on that list. I used to live 14 miles outside of California, and they were my favorite fourteen miles on earth...

Dorda, that's a very good basic summary!

David, yep, I've been watching that. I also note that Egypt, until recently a nominal US ally/client state, is currently doing joint military drills with Russian paratroopers and is talking about leasing an airbase in western Egypt to the Russian air force -- giving the latter strike capability throughout the Mediterranean basin, not to mention a convenient launching point for a future pacification of Libya. The ground is shifting very quickly...

Shane, and that's definitely something to consider. I may just do another post on revolution -- I finally relocated the book by Crane Brinton that shaped much of my thinking on the subject, and it probably deserves a shout-out.

John Michael Greer said...

Ezra, no argument at all. My guess is that the alliance between Russia and China will last precisely as long as the alliance between the US and the USSR -- that is, until the mutual enemy is defeated once and for all. After that, all bets are off.

Robert, as noted above, most failed states aren't failed everywhere; in Iraq and Syria, for example, the central government still controls a good chunk of territory. In the same way, Ukraine counts because the Donbass is in the hands of one set of warbands, while another set -- the Right Sector -- is a fairly influential presence in the rest of the country.

Lordberia3, many thanks for the review, which I've forwarded to my publisher! As for the election, well, we'll see. I suspect no one really knows just now what's going to happen; we know that a modest majority of people with land lines who are considered likely voters by the polling companies' algorithms apparently support Clinton, but that does not an election make...

Martin, the shift east is part of a broader rebalancing. 500 years ago the great Asian powers were the wealthiest and most advanced societies on earth; that changed drastically during the heyday of Europe's global conquest, but now things are reverting to normal. I really should do a post here putting our current history in that context.

Unknown Fogeyman, oh, granted -- there are doubtless analysts in the dark caverns of the Pentagon who know exactly what the score is. I think it's still worth taking potshots at the public statement!

Ghung, yep. Historically speaking, that's absolutely standard. Syria is busy exporting its crisis to Europe, too...

Shane, good. Warband culture quickly develops its own rough code of law, and one of the reasons that warbands thrive and civilizations go under is that by and large, rule by warbands is less intrusive and expensive than rule by faceless bureaucrats in an imperial capital far away. That's the thing that a lot of people forget -- coarse and brutal as rule by warlord may be, it has to be measured, not against some abstract idea of justice, but against the actual conditions of dysfunctional government, arbitrary rulemaking, and predatory taxation and regulation that you get in a failing civilization. By those standards, the warbands don't necessarily come off second best.

Toomas, oh, granted -- but then that would be another good reason to wave goodbye to Google products.

Patricia, it has indeed been tried.

Gjh42, I don't know, but they've fracked up their thinking processes pretty thoroughly with it!

Charles, obviously I disagree. I'm sure that in 1913 there were still plenty of people in Vienna insisting that the Austro-Hungarian Empire would still be standing when upstart nations like America had crashed and burned, too.

Bill, yep. You can also brew good beer and make sure you have a couple of barrels handy to offer the warlord as a gift; you may find yourself a well-armed clientele with an interest in your survival!

Jessi, I would not be surprised in the least to see Texas become an independent nation within my lifetime.

David, by the lake said...


Wow. I had not seen that news re Egypt. Agreed. The ground *is* shifting quickly, more so than most people realize. I think folks are going to suddenly wake up and find the world unrecognizaeable. Is this odd, unfocused, fuzzy, something's-not-quite-right sensation what the British felt in the twilight of their empire? I wonder. Many folks I talk with refuse to acknowledge that we are an empire at all, much less one in decline.


Yes, and that was an unfortunate choice on their part. For what it is worth, I voted for Sanders in the primary and Stein in the general. Th Dems have decided to be(come) the party of the business establishment, with occasional social issue bones tossed out to the SJWs. In time, the working class will coalesce, but it may take a while, given the divide(s) that must be bridged.

John Michael Greer said...

Patricia, I'd point to the Donbass region of the Ukraine as evidence that Russia is perfectly willing to stir up a little chaos when the situation seems to warrant it. The huge advantages that would accrue to Russia if the US were to be tied up with a domestic insurgency, and thus effectively unable to intervene abroad, have got to be on various minds in the Kremlin right now.

Ursachi, bringing Ukraine into NATO was being seriously discussed in the US media after the Yanukovych regime collapsed, so no, it's not just Russian propaganda. The point wouldn't have been to "protect" Ukraine, it would be to be able to base antimissile systems as close to Russia as possible, of course.

Cherokee, well, yes -- I was trying to copy the language of the report, on the off chance that my post might end up in hands used to US military bureaucracy-speak.

Mark, and yet there were other imperial powers that didn't bow to necessity, and suffered as a result. The ability to recognize necessity is a rare gift among nations, and unfortunately the US seems to have even less of it than most.

Fred, exactly. I'm also thinking of all those tech workers being brought over here on special visas, who learn every detail of how our tech industry works, and then go back home. I think it's safe to predict that in twenty years the US software industry will be in the same state the US auto industry is today -- a dinosaur propped up by government subsidies, lumbering slowly toward its demise -- and the epicenter of the industry will have moved elsewhere.

Trippticket, that matches what I've seen here in Cumberland. Hmm...

Sven, this article in The National Interest sums up my point of view tolerably well, though it's a bit rude to fairy dust... ;-)

David, that's one option. There are others.

Dagny, well, of course -- you're not going to create jobs by focusing your economy on technologies that replace employees with machines!

Pygmycory, thanks for the laugh! By all means work on your skaldic skills. As for women in warband eras, well, I've suggested some sources to begin your research...

Jasmine, oh, granted, nuclear war by accident is always possible, especially during times of high tension. Lots of other sudden cataclysms are also possible, for that matter.

Iuval, all this assumes that you're right about the causes. In my experience, far more often than not, the quest for single causes of complex phenomena results instead in false or partial analyses, whereby the supposed cause either has little to do with the effect or is only one factor in the mix. As a result, you waste resources trying to deal with things on the basis of a mistaken notion of what will help, rather than relying on history to determine what actually helps.

John Michael Greer said...

Pantagruel7, I didn't like Sladek when I last tried reading him, but I may just give him another try.

Donalfagan, and that's also a possibility!

Jasmine, fascinating. The ground is definitely shifting.

Patricia, well, I'm not much of a procedural fan anyway, but I'll consider it.

Grebulocities, remember that the subsidies don't eliminate the burden of rock-bottom net energy returns, they just spread it to other aspects of the economy. I suspect that the dismal energy returns on fracking are a large if unrecognized factor in the economic stagnation that's becoming so huge a social fact around us right now. As for glowing screens, hmm. I'll want to brood over that a bit.

Golocyte, there's a huge difference you're missing. In 1919 the US had a rapidly expanding economy and vast amounts of cheap natural resources as yet unextracted. Today the US economy has undergone decades of dramatic contraction papered over by the manufacture of unpayable IOUs, and the country's natural resource stocks have been drastically depleted. There are also crucial differences in the national mood and the relation between institutions and the people. I've read quite a bit of the literature of early 20th century American society; the conviction then, outside of relatively small circles of radicals, was that of course there were problems but they could be fixed by electing the right people and passing the right laws. Now? The people who used to be most committed to loyalty to the American system have given up on it, and dismiss it as a scam propping up the rule of a corrupt and clueless elite. Once that level of delegitimation takes place, history shows, a spark is rarely wanting.

cynndara said...

Iathe Chuck said, "Where can you look, and not find corruption? I suspect that it becomes easier to tolerate "a few bad apples" among your friends when it seems like everyone else is cheating."

And as a born-in-the-business bureaucrat I have to agree. Despite what some people have considered inflexible uprightness on my part, when corruption is universal, not only do you HAVE to "go along to get along" in order to remain employed, but you begin to feel like an idiot if you don't occasionally grab one of the various perks that your colleagues accept -- even demand -- without question. If the integrity of the process is already shot to hell, why NOT take a little of the proceeds for yourself? When your BOSS suggests to a client that they bribe you for preferential treatment, where's the harm in accepting the institutionally-approved bribe? It takes something more than a mere moral compass to resist such an environment -- it requires a positive need to maintain your honor for some totally unrelated personal purpose. And again, you have to be careful, because you can be fired for too much integrity.

Shane W said...

well, yes, true, but just as the South will rise again, so too will Mexico regain lands lost to Guadalupe-Hidalgo. I fully expect Mexico to be the most powerful country in North America in the near future, perhaps w/in 10 years.
Related to your country, I wonder if Canada's ability to maintain its quality of life while its southern neighbor's is in free fall is directly related to your conciliating the Brazilians, Indians, and Chinese via a wide open immigration policy for their elite? How much of Canada's wealth is now coming from up and coming powers? The contrast between Canada and the US now couldn't be starker, but it is Canada's historical nature to conciliate superpowers (Britain, then the US, now India, Brazil, & China?)

Nastarana said...

Dear Mr. Greer, about the, ahem, adult coloring books--I wonder if they need to be conveyed home in brown paper wrapping--I respectfully ask you to consider:

1. Many adult Americans younger than about 50 or 55 never had much of a childhood, certainly nothing like the long hours of play and exploration so fondly remembered by us oldsters. This is true across income levels. Some children grew up amid economic and social disorder watched over by an ever changing cast of adults, while others were being ferried from class to event to tutoring to supervised playdates to carefully scripted encounters with non-custodial parents, and healthy emotional growth was sadly stunted.

2. The designs are quite interesting, from a cultural perspective, being neither more variations on vampire/gangster/porn nor sentimental invocations of adorable chipmunks and rainbows. Dare one hope that public taste is finally turning away from vampire porn ugly and sticky goo goo sentimentality?

3. I think the fad has passed its' peak, and as the books become cheaper and show up in 2nd hand venues, they can be mined by craftspersons for years to come.

Shane W said...

I wouldn't count out a good black showing for Trump. Granted, he won't get a majority, but throughout the election season they've said he may do better than any GOP candidate in recent memory, and that his campaign efforts in the black community will have some payout. It's not hard at all to find black Trump supporters at his rallies, even if there aren't that many. His trade, immigration, and jobs message will appeal to a certain segment of the black community open to it, and turned off by being used by Democrats...

Pantagruel7 said...

Not for publication: re Sladek: I read his Mechasm back around the time it was published along with reading Vonnegut, Brautigan, and so forth. I thought Mechasm was hilarious. I read his "The New Apocrypha" when it was out in paperback and found it full of cheap shots, not too impressive. "Bugs" as I said sat on my bookshelf unread for years and I finally read it this past week. Might be worth a read. At least there's no great investment in time or money.

David, by the lake said...

I'm not on FB so I do miss getting some of the relevant memes, but my wife just showed me one that captures the mood of this election season well. It shows a b&w photo of a little bit with a 1950s haircut jabbing an electric outlet with a butterknife. The top caption reads "Trump or Hillary?" The bottom caption follows: "Top socket or bottom socket?"

Ray Wharton said...

I missed the internet outage today, I was out gleening apples at the time, but I heard about it when I logged on a bit ago. Kinda synchronicity with the issues of considering this blogs future. Things are certainly changing at a quick clip.

Shane W said...

Americans always get apoplectic about bribery and corruption in third world countries (I guess it's our Puritan heritage), but I put it this way, if I get pulled over in Mexico and pay the cop a bribe, then I'm still getting off way better than if I get financially raped by a $100+ ticket from a hard-nosed, uncompromising American cop (and it always seems like its the Northern/Yankee cops that are the least forgiving). You won't hear me squawk about bribery and corruption! I'll take the bribe over governmental financial rape any day!

Kevin Warner said...

With no essay to look forward to next week, it is going to be a long way till November - sigh. In reading your analysis of the additional threats facing the US in the coming decades, I am going out on a limb here and suggest that what has been referred to as the deep state has already come to the same conclusions that you have drawn and over the past 10-15 years have enacted measures to meet these threats.
I believe that it was Edward Snowden that used the phrase "turnkey tyranny". You can come and go as you please but once that key is turned then you're locked down. You can see the pieces falling into place already. The US police forces are being militarized to a shocking degree who see the public as an enemy, all manor of government agencies such as the Small Business Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of Education, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology are being armed with military grade arms and ammunition (, half of all people in the US have their faces in a database now, computers and devices spy on us constantly and in many US cities mics have been set up on buses, streets, etc to monitor people as they go about their business.
I am not just slinging off here at Americans. They are simply more down this road than the rest of us. The idea seems to be that as things fall apart, to come down on the public and treat them exactly like an occupied nation. This fits in with the idea that a nation state must have a monopoly of violence as born by the military, security and police forces of a state. It need not have been this way but that is where we are going at the moment. If this all sounds unlikely, remember that this is from the same group of people that say that every ten years or so, the US needs to "pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business". How would such people feel about treating fellow Americans?

Just as a nasty thought experiment before going, anybody considered what the US would be like as a country if a massive earthquake caused the east and west coast of the country to fall into the oceans?

Golocyte Golo said...

Thanks for the reply, Mr Greer. I think I understand your counterarguments: Compared to 1919, we're facing declining instead of advancing economic prospects, and whereas back then the populace basically trusted the systems, today we basically don't. I do agree with those points, and I agree that going forward both problems will get worse. But I would raise two counter-counterarguments.

The first is that although economic prospects are bleak, we are not facing a "Seneca cliff" style fall-off (probably). For the foreseeable future our government will be able to see that most people are fed and housed with running water and electricity. Under those conditions, to pick up a gun and join armed revolt still makes no sense, even if your future is to remain poor. The collective despair is nowhere near the murderous, pick-up-a-gun to kill or die levels that are necessary.

I'd grant that supporting a Caesar might make sense to many, but at least for now I'd assert that electing a Bernie Sanders makes much more sense---and I believe there are a lot more Bernie Sanderses in our future. He'd make sure you get just a little extra free stuff right now, and promise a bright future through the magic of progress (as well as through togetherness and inclusion and healing and all the wonderful things).

My second objection is that nobody will fight to violently overthrow "the system" if they don't have a theory for why things will be better on the other side. In other words, we have no ideological foundation for serious rebellion, at least none that will persuade more than a few lunatics. Also we don't have strong enough leaders to push through a Confederacy-style separatist effort (ie a political but not social revolution). Without an Idea to kill for, any violent group that emerged would loose legitimacy after a few bombs go off and a mother or some kids die.

I already know the objection: 1913 Russia didn't have widespread political idealism, yet a band of left-wing radicals took over in 1917. But Russia in 1914-1917 was nothing like the USA right now. Maybe 6 million soldiers were killed or maimed in 3 years, many millions were internally displaced, every necessity of life was in shortage and widespread hunger was setting in as another war winter approached, soldiers were deserting in the 10s of thousands, the War was being lost, and the government's response to domestic unrest was to form up Cossacks into paramilitary squads with orders to shoot into the crowds.

Compare that to today where the establishment doesn't represent us and economic growth is only 1%.

Our society is nowhere near the breaking point.

Patricia Mathews said...

About adult coloring books - what is the difference between filling in one of their elaborate designs with a colored pencil, and embroidering a printed design on fabric? I have done both. The fabric may be prettier and useful both, though most of such efforts end up as decorations sold at craft fairs anyway.

And for that matter, though I have no skill in either, carving the design into a piece of leather or wood?

Instead of saying "coloring books are for children; therefore the fashion for them means adults are getting childish" - for which you could substitute "reading fairy tales" and many sober sourpusses ave said that, too - why not consider the coloring book fashion as "adult hands are starved for something to do?"

And they are. I am weaving a cord on a child's weaving wheel (instructions so kit-oriented I actually had to re-invent the uses of the wheel!) which has to be the most simple-minded activity in all the fiber arts. It is very satisfying.

patriciaormsby said...

John, you and I will probably have to disagree on this, but I've been following events in the Donbass pretty closely, having friends in Kiev (from whom I've not heard for quite a while) as well as Russia. Obviously I have my biases. Russia does not benefit at all from chaos in the Ukraine, and in fact, aside from protecting what is still its sole warm-water base from being overtaken by hostile forces, wants nothing to do with the Ukraine--a tar baby the US would like to hand it--beyond preventing a genocide of ethnic Russians that would be unpopular enough at home to topple the current regime. It is this half-hearted intervention in the Donbass, providing only humanitarian and military advisory assistance, that perpetuates the chaos, but I doubt that is the intention. Order would certainly be restored after a thorough ethnic cleansing, with Monsanto as one of the beneficiaries and Joe Biden's family as another.

patriciaormsby said...

PS (wish there was an edit), you are quite correct that stirring up confusion in the US would logically be one strategy Russia would consider, and they are probably weighing that option and possibly acting on it. In addition, Putin has been very clear that "we know Everything you do."

To others here expressing concern about a resurgent Russia, it's happening. They've been forced into it by continued provocations from the West. They are also taking the threat of nuclear war seriously enough to hold massive public drills (and I wonder how many Soviet citizens were aware of the Cuban missile crisis as it was happening). Their alliance with China, as John has said, will last as long as they face a common threat. They have enough of their own resources, and may benefit short-term from global warming not to mention their diminished population, that they don't need conquest, so whatever cornered-cat puffery they do in the meantime will probably end once the threat is removed, and then sooner or later get turned back toward China, who will probably be a very difficult neighbor as resources decline.

John, I look forward to any future article you write on this, as you've mentioned twice above.:-)

n=ro said...

Dear JMG,

I was wondering what your take is on the new poll about Trump voters:

'Last month, results of 87,000 interviews conducted by Gallup showed that those who liked Trump were under no more economic distress or immigration-related anxiety than those who opposed him.'
'primary exit polls revealed that Trump voters were, in fact, more affluent than most Americans, with a median household income of $72,000 – higher than that of Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders supporters'

best regards,

Ursachi Alexandru said...


The US media? I don't live in the US, but I'm quite sure that the media and the people who actually run the country and decide on is foreign policy are not the same thing.

Remember the Georgia episode back in 2008? I recall reading an article of yours from about that time claiming, just as you do now, that Russia was "provoked" by NATO. What you didn't mention was the NATO summit we had in Bucharest earlier that year, from which the Georgian and Ukrainian delegations both left disappointed because no perspective for NATO membership was offered to them.

As for the anti-missile systems, they're already based here in Romania, and probably will be expanded to Poland in 2018. Why would they be expanded to Ukraine, a volatile country where they could all to easily fall into the wrong hands? Romania and Poland are pretty stable politically right now, and there is little to no sympathy for Russia in these countries. In Ukraine, it's a different story. Just consider the recent talks about NATO assets in Turkey after the military coup attempt.

Again, I do not see any serious attempts by NATO to actually do such things, but you seem to believe that because you heard about it in "the US media." Again, a bit of a contradictory statement.

[email protected] said...

Thanks John

Lets see what happens on election night. I certainly know what my gut instinct is telling me...

Regarding the US, I have to agree with you that the American system is dangerously close to a violent eruption. Should Hilary Clinton get elected, a significant portion of the American public will consider her illegitimate, a crook who belongs in prison not the White House and a small minority will be prepared to take up arms against her.

The most interesting thing is that the ranks of the police, military and Homeland Security are dominated by working class/lower-middle class white men who will overwhelmingly vote for Donald Trump. The possibility that they will step aside, or even defect, to a populist armed uprising against a Clinton regime is possible, particularly if they think that she stole the election.

Golo, you keep on talking about Bernie Sanders. He didn't get elected as a Democratic candidate and never had a chance due to the rigging of the Democratic primary system. Nor do I think that future Bernie's will have much of a chance either, although hopefully I may be wrong on that.

Bill Pulliam said...

JMG -- that is an excellent suggestion. An extra calf or a bunch of tender kids (of the goat variety) probably would not hurt at all either!

Nastarana said...

Dear ShaneW, about "good black showing for Trump", that is as may be, and the minority bloggers will play that for all it is worth, but the point remains that what for want of a better term I would describe as high urbanite minority advocacy has this election forfeited its' veto over what self-styled "progressives" (a word which has outlived its usefulness, IMO) are permitted to say in public. Accusing people of "privilege" because they couldn't stomach the Clinton corrupt road show was a bridge too far. And then, to have to watch the nomination be literally stolen from their preferred candidate, and to be expected to go along with the theft--I think is something which will not soon be forgiven or forgotten.

I suspect the Democrats for Trump and former Democrats for Stein votes might be a lot larger than anyone now expects. I think this is the beginning of the end of the Democratic Party being the place where social movements go to die. If the party endures after what is sure to be a catastrophic Clinton presidency, it will be as a home for FIRE elites and their clientage, and no one else. Now, if the Libertarian Party could reinvent itself as the party of makers and doers, not takers, and not shills for big business demanding conformity from all, it could have a bright future.

Bogatyr said...

Hello from Beijing, where winter is starting to arrive! Hmm, this week's post is getting back to topics which are close to my own areas of interest...

@Ray Wharton: "I missed the internet outage today, I was out gleening apples at the time, but I heard about it when I logged on a bit ago. Kinda synchronicity with the issues of considering this blogs future. Things are certainly changing at a quick clip."

Yes, the latest round of cyberattacks used the Internet of Things as its springboard - all of those internet-connected fridges, televisions, cameras and the like have turned out to be Trojan Horses, brought into our own homes by our own selves. Something which was obvious from the beginning to anyone with tech knowledge and common sense. I gather that it's actually impossible for most of these appliances to be made safe without a massive recall by the manufacturers, which we all know will never happen - so, be prepared for more of the same. Security expert Bruce Schneier has some interesting comments in a post today: Someone is learning how to take down the internet.

Fred said: "The Indians and Chinese in professional salary positions here are stealing what resources we have left".

Have you seen the latest stories about Chinese companies taking ideas from Kickstarter? Of course, there's good old-fashioned breaking and entering to steal ideas, or even using students. Allegedly, of course. Whether or not these particular stories are actually true, they're certainly feasible, and that means that Western countries are really going to have to rethink a lot of issues about immigration before too long. Oh wait - that seems to have started, both in the UK and the USA...

JMG mentioned that "Ukraine counts because the Donbass is in the hands of one set of warbands, while another set -- the Right Sector -- is a fairly influential presence in the rest of the country".

I'll quibble a bit here: the Ukrainian side is as described, but the rebel Republics (Donetsk somewhat more successfully than Lugansk) are still maintaining a formal state structure.

Edward: "What's a green wizard to do if there are war bands that will come and pillage everything that was painstakingly put together? It kinda takes the wind out of your sails."

This has been weighing on my mind for some years now. I joined my local Transition Group when I last lived in the UK, but (influenced by this blog) kept asking myself the very same question. When I moved to Russia, a few pieces fell into place as I started mixing with members of Cossack revival groups, leading to this blog post: Systema and the Zombie Apocalypse. A couple of years later, after moving again, to Beijing, I followed it up with this: Zombies on the Horizon. The summary is that the neo-Cossacks are building very resilient communities based on strong personal relationshiops, cultural activities that bring colour and variety to life, and combat skills. There's a great deal to be learned from them, imho.

Justin said...

Shane, regarding Canada, yeah, I think you're right. A lot of talking heads have talked about increasing Canada's population to 100 million by 2100, through a combination of organic population growth among more fecund immigrant groups and mass immigration from the BRICS. Needless to say this is absurd.

Things in Canada are comparable to the coastal United States, except in a few pockets where flyover-style dysfunction and poverty is the norm. I've come to think of Canada as the United States' fourth coast anyway, so that doesn't surprise me.

Things aren't exactly rosy for the younger set in Canada. The Gen X and Boomers have constructed, consciously or not, a wall around their prosperity, which immigration helps support. Highly-paid jobs are typically the result of government subsidy one way or another or work in the resource industry - where pay is dropping precipitously due to flown-in Asian workers. To use one example, nurses are highly unionized and therefore extremely well-compensated, so hospitals are increasing the number of 'nurse technicians' - less-educated nurses who can do many of the same jobs, for less than half the pay of a new-grad nurse. So jobs in the nursing field are drying up, to the detriment of those who are already in the door but the benefit of those already in.

Similarly in the engineering world, the number of new graduates has increased by 400% in the last last decade, with no related growth in the number of jobs available. There are plenty of highly paid engineers, but they mostly got in a decade or more ago.

The sort of seasonal agricultural labour jobs that traditionally, young men with few other prospects could travel to and make decent money are almost exclusively done by temporary foreign workers, because it's no secret that a TFW won't complain about safety, or low pay, or outright labor theft because they know they won't be invited back from the Phillipines or wherever next year if they speak up.

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20161022T150733Z

Dear Golocyte Golo,

Thanks for your encouragement, in a comment timestamped "10/21/16, 3:19 PM". You advise supplementing Munkres, as a topology authority, with Allen Hatcher. Although I don't at this point know Prof. Hatcher's work, I have archived your advice in my Debian GNU/Linux-based files on resources.

It is perhaps helpful for me to add - possibly for your benefit, possibly for the benefit of other ADR readers - that I am working not at the advanced end of toplogy in which Prof. Hatcher is evidently famous but at its elementary end. At the moment, I have just sorted out the difference (given an arbitrary linearly ordered set X and an arbitrary subset Y thereof, with Y to have at least two elements) between (1) order space on Y and (2) subspace, imposed by Y, of the order space on X. (The first of these is always a sub-collection of the second. The second is a sub-collection of the first **IF** Y is so polite as to be convex in X.) This is really very basic stuff.

Soon I hope to be looking at the concept of a Hausdorff space - again, very basic stuff.

The point of all this topology in my (grotty, down-market) case is to lay the best possible foundation for multivariate real analysis. The point of multivariate real analysis in my (grotty, down-market) case is to lay the best possible foundation for an eventual hoped-for writing project, in which I expound the conceptual foundations of radio, for the ham-radio community, in proper mathematical-physics rigour. It is necessary for the contemplated radio work to develop Maxwell's equations in both integral and differential form, in a Special-Relativity setting (with, therefore, due attention to real analysis, including some stuff on tensors).

I think of it thus, that first the American Empire will collapse, and then some generations down the road civilization itself will complete its ongoing grand catabolic collapse - collapse which is, overall, musically an andante maestoso. Whoever is LEFT (some tough Chinese radio hams, dealing with Russia as an always-rather-underdeveloped hinterland of the erstwhile sophisticated Middle Kingdom?) will appreciate ham-radio documentation! Heh-heh.

Anyone with ideas on physics-of-radio, and pertinent maths, is welcome to communicate via Toomas(dot)Karmo(at)gmail(dot)com.

Gratefully, looking forward now to Hausdorff etc, and
thinking also that on the HANDS-ON side I have to do something
about my rather large pile of currently non-operating ham-shack radio gear,

Tom = VA3KMZ (main practical interest = radiotelegraphy, say on 20 metres or 40 metres)

Donald Hargraves said...

Another data point on outsourcing in-place:
I have friends who have been commenting on the Indian Invasion of their apartment complex. Seems that Westinghouse has decided that it would make more sense to import a bunch of Indian workers, house them in local apartment complexes, and have them do the work that used to be done by Americans.

I'm worried for my brother. He's in IT, and evidently the dictate has spread among the corporate world that Americans are the enemy.

Brigyn said...

@ Mr Greer, and anyone else who wants to reply;

A thing that keeps coming up here is firearms. As Mr Greer said, like the stories of old warbands, but with firearms instead of swords.

I can readily see that happening for a while, especially in America. Here in Europe, gun ownership is so low that I find it a lot less likely. But I'd like to make a comparison to the go-to historical equivalent, the Romans.

The Roman Empire in the fourth century had one siege engine per one hundred men, as well as crossbows and excellent armour. They were great at building fortifications too, but all their techniques required incredible manpower in addition to advanced mathematics and long supply lines - sometimes Roman legions moved millions of cubic meters of earth, or dug huge trenches, fifteen feet deep and wide, and over thirty miles long (sounds a lot like a modern military to me).

Now of course, all of this was gladly taken over by the new rulers after the fall of (Western) Rome - Roman weapons, armour, siege weapons, fortifications, roads and anything else that was intact. Roman defectors were hired by their opponents, and Roman weaponry was plundered or stolen and sold from armouries and used extensively - everyone used Roman armaments and tactics (again, not at all unlike the world today).

Initially, right after the change in management, the world seemed very similar. The non-Roman troops wore Roman gear, the houses were still of Roman make, as was the governor's house and the local fortress. But a mere 150 years later, it was all gone and forgotten. Even the relatively simple crossbow fell out of use. The Roman roads had dilapidated, and their technology was almost entirely forgotten. The forests of Western Europe had expanded tremendously, almost back to their pre-Roman sizes. Fields and towns, including their libraries and workshops were swallowed by the woods.

The crossbow wouldn't really come back into any noteworthy use for another 600 years or so. And mind, they weren't forgotten. Some Pictish stones depict crossbows used as hunting weapons from 500 to 800. There were a rare few around, but they weren't used on any large scale for hundreds of years. The Byzantines continued to produce crossbows right up until their fall in 1453. They were pretty much solely used in fortifications and for guard duty. They weren't taken out on the battlefield.

I think the advantages of guns are like those of crossbows in many important ways - they require far less training than other ranged weapons, it is just point and click. They are powerful, accurate and effective.

I have some ideas as to why they fell out of favour. A crossbow has to be stored dry, it is rather mechanical in nature and would likely require a stocked workbench for any repairs. I think that without the entire technological base provided by a Roman marching camp, the crossbow proved completely unsuitable for anything but short luxury hunting trips. You can't drag it with you through the mud for a month and expect it to perform. Especially with the woods growing back, and the Franks and other Western Europeans being very adept at horseback warfare, you couldn't get enough shots off either, before the enemy got to you.

And so I wonder, after the initial warbands have worn out our current respective militaries' gear, do you believe firearms will really still be in common use? I find it so very hard to believe. I can't imagine them being worth making in a post-industrial society - or even a scavenger-based society. Just like heavy armour wasn't worth making, nor most roads worth preserving, nor fortresses.

TLDR; Will we really have firearms 200+ years from now?

Disclaimer: Not a Roman History expert. All information correct as to my knowledge.

Varun Bhaskar said...


Some months ago a friend in the Indian Navy asked me to review their ten year strategic plan. I soft balled the review just because I was worried about future career prospects. This week, after reading your excellent strategic projections, I’ve decided to go back and hack that plan to bits. However, your article has also highlighted something even more terrifying. Most of the good things that might happen in the decades ahead are going to be a result of pure dumb luck, more than any kind of mitigation planning. We’re living in a world where our institutions, and I mean everywhere in the world, are so intellectually and creatively deficit that the citizenry is basically helpless against the tides of nature. I mean, I thought we established governments to protect us from the awesome force of nature, and now we find that our civil servants have left their posts.

By the way if you give China until 2100 before it hard crashes, I give India until 2060. Unless the country embraces Gandhian economics in a hurry, things on the subcontinent are going to get real ugly real fast. The cult of progress controlled India’s elite before independence, and it has only gotten worse since the markets opened.

Here’s a link to the Review:

Have a good trip!


Your response on the bribery issue makes it pretty clear you've never lived in a society where bribery is the norm. It isn't just the cop you'll eventually be bribing, it's bloody everyone. Want a connection to the sewage line? Gotta pay up. Want a marriage certificate? Pay up. Want to get your kid enrolled in a school, private or public? Pay a bribe. It won't just be one guy you'll be bribing either, it'll be a chain of people. Those unofficial fees add up real fast when you're at the bottom of the economic food chain. At least here in the states it's clear what fees you have to pay, and to whom. You call that rape, I call it consistency.

There are plenty of reasons to dislike our governing structure, the honesty of our lower level government workers ain't one of them.



Mister Roboto said...

This is a little off-topic, but I really want to share this observation somewhere: I remember how back in the seventies and the eighties American cold-warriors were always insisting that we had to be ultra-vigilant in our anti-communism (which more often than not meant dismissing any and all dissent to the cold-war foreign-policy consensus) because the communist USSR worked so hard to undermine freedom and constitutional government everywhere by encouraging subversion in order to promote its own expansionist agenda. Now, if that doesn't describe US foreign policy in this new century in a hammer-nail-head fashion, I don't know what does!

pygmycory said...

Shane - most of Canada's wealth comes from its natural resources. We have a bit more than 1/10 the US population, and a larger land area, less of which has been heavily exploited due to it being icy cold and in the middle of nowhere. Until late 2014, we were raking in money for our oil, not to mention all the other mining, timber harvesting etc. Once that burst, we have been stagnating economically and dipping in and out of recession nationally. Alberta in particular is a right mess economically right now.

The immigration of elites issue is seen mostly in crazy house prices in Vancouver, BC and Toronto. The Vancouver one looks to be in the stage immediately before free-fall, at which point BC will also be an economic mess made worse rather than better by having had foreign investor's money shovelled into the Vancouver housing market.

Apart from that, there is tourism, which I understand is doing decently right now because of the large drop in the Canadian dollar against the US now the commodities bubble has been popped.

Canada's largest trading partners from 2015 are 1) the USA, 2) the EU, 3)China, 4)Mexiico. The US trade is more than 10X the trade with China. China and other developing nations are very important and will become more so over the years, but they aren't quite there yet.

Mike said...


Yesterday's distributed denial of service attack against Dyn DNS resolution service is a prime example of the monkey wrenching you wrote of. That the attack vector is the new hotness, Internet of Things, brings to mind Joseph Tainter's hypothesis about increasing complexity no longer having any benefit but only cost.


Timberwolf said...

@ John Michael, Ursachi Alexandru, etc.

The latest rent-a-coup (the so-called Maidan Revolution) in Ukraine wasn't just about American missile bases and an attempt to neutralize Russia's nuclear deterrent via forward deployed ABM's.

The US Navy hoped to get its hands on Sevastopol as a forward base, while crippling the Russian Black Sea Fleet without firing a shot. After liberation of Crimea by Russian forces, Russian intelligence officers discovered that USN had started handing out construction contracts around Sevastopol like party favors a few weeks before the coup de etat in Kiev that was organized by Victoria Nuland, George Soros and all the other "usual suspects".

Gee, I wonder why? As the old saying goes, you get three guesses and the last two don't count...

PS - Russian sources have pointed out that the ABM's deployed in Romania and soon to be deployed in Poland use the same system, including radars and missile launchers, as the USN's Aegis Combat System. They further note that Aegis system can not only fire ABM's like the SM-3 and anti aircraft missiles like the SM-6 Talon and RIM-162 ESSM, but can also fire offensive missiles like the Tomahawk cruise missile. Furthermore, the SM-6 Talon is a multi-role missile that can be used not only for anti-aircraft and antimissile defense, but can also be used to attack enemy ships and land targets hundreds of kilometers away.

You can see why the Russians are very concerned about the anti-missile systems being deployed by the Americans in Romania and Poland and are taking appropriate countermeasures.

Shane W said...

RE: Canada, from an American perspective, it sure seems like you have a long way to fall before you reach American levels. I was in Hastings Co., Ont. last summer, in a very blue collar, mostly white area, with a lot of veterans (Belleville is close to CFB Trenton), and there was not nearly the social decay, frustration, or poverty of the US. Canada has done very well for itself being the closest ally of the major power of the day, and, honestly, I can't really fault them for that--it is a very good strategy for a vast, sparsely populated country to take, and has afforded them one of the world's best quality of life, and if it gives you that much more cushion on the descent, it is good. I only wish that the US were as conciliatory to up and coming powers!
oh, granted, can't argue with you there. If Trump does get 20% of the black vote, which is optimistic, that's still 80% going to Hillary. You'd think that black folk would remember history, that if white folk are inviting them to the table, to be suspicious. Minorities in this country often get left holding the bag, so to speak, and now, when black folk, overall, are as pro-establishment as they are, they're going to get caught holding this "bag" we call the USA when it all goes to pieces.
Faith in the "panopticon" deep state requires faith in digital technology, which, as we all know is flawed and getting more flawed and buggy by the day. I don't doubt that the will is there among the establishment for a digital deep state to control everything, but I have serious doubts, based on my own lack of faith in digital technology, that it will ever come to pass. Speaking of which, I had a "thoughtful moment" with a NWO (new world order), deep state, progress believer. He's in his mid 20s, young enough to be my son, and I said, "you know how your parents had an easier time accumulating wealth and acquiring things than you do?" He nodded in agreement. "Now, imagine that your nieces and nephews have it just as worse compared to you as you to your parents. Then imagine that just keeps going until people are herding sheep in the ruins." You could tell for a brief moment, it dawned on him, he understood what I call "regress".

Shane W said...

regarding adult coloring books, I really strongly get the feeling the plug is being pulled on the drain, or the peak of the roller coster is being reached in our society. There's just this omnipresent auto-pilot that everyone is going on, and this collective shutting down of the collective mind. I have not yet taken your advice and read memoirs of people living through 20s-30s Europe, and the existential angst they felt, but I imagine they can't have felt any different than I feel here in 2016 America. We've just collectively died, now, the only thing is for the actual death to begin.

John Michael Greer said...

David, yes, I suspect it's much the same. It'll be interesting, in the sense of the apocryphal Chinese curse, to watch Americans insisting at the top of their lungs that we don't have an empire, it isn't falling, and its fall doesn't matter anyway...

Nastarana, yes, I figured I'd get pushback for my comment about coloring books. I'd like to see adults who need to do something with their time explore a craft that (a) involves creativity rather than filling in somebody else's design, and (b) teaches useful skills, but I suppose that's a lot to ask for these days.

David, funny.

Ray, that may be the single best response to the current political fracas I've heard yet. Thank you.

Shane, er, I don't think you're factoring in what happens when every single government official, including that cop, has his hand out for a bribe...

Kevin, I interpret those facts a little differently. I see the current US political class as desperately trying to hold together a crumbling system, and engaging in a set of actions that failed abjectly to keep, for example, the Soviet Union and its satellites from going the way we're headed now. A "turnkey tyranny" doesn't amount to much if the people you're relying on to carry out orders are increasingly disaffected and unrewarded for their efforts. But we'll see...

Golocyte, am I right that you don't live in the poorer part of flyover country? From where I sit, things aren't just bleak, they're desperate. Wages are stagnant, jobs are increasingly hard to get, rent and other costs of living are soaring, and Obamacare has made medical care effectively unaffordable for a great many working class people. Rates of suicide and death by opiate overdose are soaring, because so many people outside the affluent coastal bubble have their backs to the wall, and know it. That's why I'd argue that things are much closer to an explosion than you believe.

Patricia M., as noted above, yes, I expected to get pushback on that.

Patricia O., we do indeed disagree -- and it interests me that so many people have piled on with so many different takes on the Donbass situation!

N=ro, it's doubtless true that when you sample a selection of likely voters who happen to have land lines, you don't see much difference. The fact remains that everywhere I've been in the last two months, all the Clinton signs are in well-to-do neighborhoods, while the Trump signs are in the neighborhoods of the working poor.

Ursachi, I referenced the US media because you said the only people who were talking about Ukraine's potential accession to NATO were Russian propagandists. Clearly that wasn't true. As I noted to Patricia above, it fascinates me that so many people have piled onto this one subject with such heat!

Lordberia3, whichever way the election goes, we could get serious civil unrest. If Trump wins, it's entirely possible that the inner cities will go up like a Roman candle; if Clinton wins, similar scenes could readily unfold across the Midwest and the South. It would take really clueless mishandling of the situation to turn either of those into an enduring insurgency, but both candidates arguably have what it takes to do that! One way or another, though, the next four years are going to be a very troubled and unstable time.

Patricia Mathews said...

@JMG - okay. Of course, in some cases it could be creeping senility rather than regression to childhood. Or ...what was I saying? Oops, forgot ....

BTW - scariest view of senility in all science fiction (induced, via mindwipe, as punishment for crime, is Alfred Bester's THE DEMOLISHED MAN. The Struldbugs (sp?)by - was it Orwell? Rich immortals very far gone in decay - is scarier, but without the vigorous adult personality they once had as contrast. And if the author meant it as metaphor, give him three wizard's hats and a crystal ball.

Nastarana said...

Mr. Greer, I like sewing and needlework but I am not much good at drawing, so I am eyeing the coloring books as sources of non-stupid design which can be adapted for quilting, applique, and so on. Because the designs have. already. been. published., no one can come along and "design" their own pattern using color book tracings and then slap a copyright on the result. There is quite a lot of what I call copyright abuse in the worlds of quilting and needlework, in which someone surrounds a known traditional pattern with some leaves they traced from Dover Imprints, and then claims the whole thing is original and you have to pay them $15 if you want to use any part of it.

I admit to buying one oversized fancy coloring book for a grandchild.

pygmycory said...

I was given one of those adult coloring books. I agreed that it was pretty (it is), but I haven't used it. I love drawing and painting, and I'd rather make my own designs than fill in other people's. I don't really get the appeal.

latheChuck said...

I imagine that my local warband leader would see the value in keeping a guild of radiomen inside the gates. You can't teach radiotelegraphy in a week (or even in a year), especially if your raw material (potential substitutes from the warband) first must be taught reading, writing, and arithmetic! The basics of transistors and transmission lines will be esoteric enough, let alone Toomas's project to put ham radio on a firm physical basis (including Special Relativity). Then there's the mental training needed to make characters out of the dits and daahs (and vice versa). Though ciphers are forbidden by FCC regulations, it's hard to imagine those regulations being enforced in a warband society, so skill with ciphers would also be valuable.

Talented radio engineers have already been sought out by Mexican drug trafficking organizations. Whether they're retained (detained) for future use, or disposed of after each job, we'll only know if bodies are discovered.

"According to a report by Animal Politico, an independent Mexico-based investigative media company, about the so-called “slaves of narco,” 36 communications specialists had gone missing in the region between 2008 and 2012."

Ray Wharton said...

One of the things I am grateful about this blog project is that I don't feel as overwhelem with the rapid changes in our culture as I might otherwise be. When the news gets scary start putting away preserves. I should end up with three to five gallons of apple butter by Monday evening. So worst case I still will have an ample supply of tasty toppings for my sourdough pancakes... even if affording much fancy fare becomes prohibitive.

The dispute here about Dombass is telling indeed. It reminds me of how very difficult it is to read the global situation. I feel the intensity of the drama, but like a good drama I cannot guess whats on the next page. That's dramatic tension.

Recently I watched Adam Curtis' 'Hyper Normalization', if TV is a drug, then anything by Adam Curtis is a very heavy drug, not one I recommend lightly. His documentaries are basically Adam reading an essay he wrote on a topic with a bunch of emotionally provocative images and sounds, so if moving pictures and the access they have on ones sub conscious aren't ones thing, I would recommend reading a transcript if it can be found. Interestingly his take on Russia's role these days are totally different from the mix of perspectives seen in this comment thread. The detail he focuses on is Russia's use of misdirection to stay unguessable; though I think that their policies have a logic to them that Adam doesn't want to mention. The movie's title comes from an article from late in the Soviet Union, about the situation where the citizens knew that the news reports that they saw didn't describe reality as they experienced it, but played along anyway, for lack of another story to make sense of things. Adam contends that citizens of today's western democracies are in a similar state; not able to believe the news, and yet not having access to details that would otherwise make sense of an increasingly alarming reality.

I am one who is easily drawn to theorizing and trying to explain what is going on, and often do so using narrative bits taken from here. But, I find that much of the data I have about what is going on beyond my immediate surroundings is so abstract and contradictory that really I just don't at all know what is happening. I think this is a typical situation for people today, and yet the emotional drain of uncertainty makes folks latch on to what little bits of grand narrative they can piece together. So ironically the lack of grounds for certainty leads to a kind of bluffed certainty. This is alienating and isolating, as others have their out insular stories that are supported by countless pieces of evidence that none can be bothered to stay informed on. I say this based on conversations with neighbors, and this I suspect is an experience that is by no means isolated to my surroundings.

So what is happening a world away from me in Syria or Russia or Ukraine? I don't know what's up with Denver, my capital city! What does the situation mean in terms of the election? I don't know! How can I do my duty in a Democracy if I have no idea what is happening, and cannot think of a way to figure it out with an affordable amount of effort? I know there are many 'self confirmation traps' this I can observe directly.

The structure of understanding the world that frames these discussions seems to work well, and yet it is more powerful and useful on a longer time line, on the immediacies of this year or this election, or this or that war, there the sources of uncertainty are dominant.

Renaissance Man said...

So, I started to read the post, then switched to the frighteningly clueless .pdf, immediately latched onto the lessons of history notably absent from said document... and then read pretty much what I was thinking in the rest of your blog.
The basic assumption of the report, of course, is that everything is going to continue on, much as it has these past 3 generations, and American Life (TM) will not change much. America will still be the exceptionally exceptional preeminent power of the world, before whom all bow in awe coupled with the belief that the rest of the world all want to be just like us (i.e. North American suburban culture).
I could add a couple of other points that you obviously didn't have space to discuss:

Energy resource constraints: A parallel-section to Monkeywrenching. Fighting an ultra-modern war without adequate resources and energy to support all the machinery & equipment. The U.S. Army -- and its western allies -- all assume a kind of WWI / WWII industrial-attrition type of extensive battle-front, with machinery & equipment & big guns & huge supply lines. So far, beating on much weaker but doggedly determined opponents, they have not been particularly successful. Less successful, in fact, than the Soviets were in the 1980s in the same region before U.S. intervention. How are they planning to fight without that advantage?

Looming immediate agricultural crisis. More immediate than the shifting environment, modern farming that depends on oil has depleted and eroded so much topsoil and compromised fertility, that food production will be a critical problem. Wendell Berry noted this more than 30 years ago and all attempts to reverse this trend have been immediately co-opted by corporate agribusiness.

The threatening financial crisis. With the huge TBTF banks propped up by government life-support since 2008, and disparity between paper value and real production, financing war may not be possible.

You were right: there is enough missing to write a small book. Which, in fact, is pretty much what you explored in the books you already HAVE written.

Renaissance Man said...

Addendum: I did get the discussion of resource depletion mentioned in your fifth point, but I took that to be more of an aside. I am referring to a more acute, immediate effects of currently disintegrating means of domestic oil production within the next couple of years, rather than the longer-term (i.e. more than a couple of decades) that I inferred from your discussion.

onething said...


"I don't live in the US, but I'm quite sure that the media and the people who actually run the country and decide on its foreign policy are not the same thing."

I'm pretty sure they are very closely aligned, not that whatever they may blather about accepting Ukraine into NATO or the EU was necessarily true or serious.

SamuraiArtGuy said...

This one is going to be essentially stream of consciousness, since I was involved with the tedious self-employed mundania of keeping a roof over this week, so a touch late to the party this time. So just a few observations.

It does appear to me that military planners are upholding the time honored tradition of ever fighting the last war, tho' that has always, ALWAYS resulted in unpreparedness for the next conflict.

Of course, we noticed that the cyber monkey-wrenching has come to pass, as if on cue from your post, with a massive DDOS attack launched via the ill-conceived - unsecured in any meaningful way - Internet of Things that crippled a major DNS Service Provider, silencing swaths of the 'Net. Yes, your DVD player may be a traitor. And why the HELL does a toaster need to be 'Net connected? Not to mention our friendly neighborhood Russian Hackers seemingly accessing political and institutional email servers at will.

Contrary to January's cautionary prediction in January's "Donald Trump and the Politics of Resentment," it would appear that Sec. Clinton is going to manage to pull this one out. Despite the DNC's best efforts to shove defeat down the throat of victory, it's to no credit of the Democrats. The Democratic party is hardly the legitimate left anymore, but rather the not-particularly-Liberal wing of a unified in all but name Corporate Party. Rather, it's Donald Trump's sheer unhinged awfulness and utter lack of political discipline that has crippled his campaign, to the relief of Establishment players on both sides of the aisle.

Another wave we underestimated was the DNC's almost rabid efforts to sink the Sanders's campaign, despite the clear evidence that he was the superior candidate and could bring some relevance for ordinary citizens back to the Democratic party. But the status quo does not budge from their comfortable arc unless forced, despite that arc leading over a cliff or into a wall. But of course, if the Democratic Party still stood up for Democratic principles I might still BE one instead of a freshly-stamped cranky Independent.

But the candidates, despite their many flaws and dubious virtues, are not the problems – and almost certainly not the solutions – they are further SYMPTOMS of our extended National decline. Even though, as you have said, taboo to discuss among "serious people", it's becoming clearer to more observers that both parties, and the media, are almost utterly ignoring the deep well of misery and anger building for over thirty years in the wage class, and rising in the salary class from below that the Trump Campaign so easily exploits.

These people aren't stupid, they're pissed off, quite rightfully feel unrepresented by Washington, and resent the condescending dismissal as being stupid and racist they receive from many on the Left. No matter who wins in a few weeks, these issues, and all the anger and misery will still be with us.

Last semi-connected thought. From what deep well of idiocy springs our quite frankly disastrous and repetitive 30 plus years of misguided Neocon foreign policy? As I have heard suggested, when a governmental policy makes little sense on the surface or the substance, one must FOLLOW THE MONEY to make some sense of it. So who benefits from foreign policy decisions that are clearly detrimental to both our national interests and global stability? Most likely the same entities who benefit from 30 plus years of equally misguided Neoliberal economic policy.

On a guess, I would say massive corporate interests and wealthy elites that own our political leadership and bend public institutions to their ends and hoover up the wealth of the Nation at the expense of her citizens, setting the stage for eventual... collaspe or... correction.

I don't expect it will be a boring century.

Kfish said...

Speaking of crafts, recently I became the head of my local amateur craft guild. The group's current challenge for survival is the fact that its average member is 50+ years old. They're highly interested in passing on their skills to the next generations, but the generation gap is more like a chasm. It's so frustrating trying to get retirees to understand that unless meetings are held outside work hours, or with some allowance for childcare, working-age women just aren't going to show up. If anyone here is living in Brisbane, Australia, look us up:

Ursachi Alexandru said...


Sorry for "piling" on this subject, I can't speak for the others but I happen to live in this geopolitically disputed area.

MattMc said...

Thomas, Google has one identity system that it uses for all its properties. It makes sense if you use multiple services, as I do.

It will not 'penalise' you if you happen to only use one.

I suspect that the changes are in response to increasing sophistication and risk associated with the classic approach to single-factor logins which are now basically not very secure. Google has taken these steps in the face of what JMG called 'monkey-wrenching' at the nation-state level, and it has done this despite the more difficult user-experience which slows adoption, because they put user protection and trust first. Not all providers do. To put added safety around any account they will perform a risk assessment based on usual locations, use of public locations, unusual patters of login etc to put additional checks in place, as our host has experienced.

Google now least provides a number of pretty sophisticated options for 2-factor authentication, although to make them as simple as possible for the user many of them will use a mobile phone, which is of course at odds with our host and many readers on here.

They do provide one option that can be used like a one-time pad with a set of printed codes.

The use of 2-factor authentication reduces the risk and could well help.

JMG is right that it is a sign of the times, but one more fundamental to JMGs post this week than a simple 'upgrade that they thought would be cool and fun'. It has no bearing on trying to drive different product adoption, and goes conntra to that objective, imho.


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